American Regional Cuisine is on the menu this term at Owens Community College's Terrace View Cafe, thanks to the culinary arts students.
Last fall, the college's school of health sciences expanded its academic curriculum to include a two-year culinary arts associate degree program, the only one of its kind in northwest Ohio.
"Due to the ever-increasing popularity of the acclaimed Food Network and other cooking shows, the perception of working within the food industry has been transformed into a rewarding career field and a culinary arts degree program is becoming more and more important," says Tekla Madaras, Owens chairman of dietetic-hotel, restaurant, institution technologies.
Chef Bill Powell is the full-time coordinator of the program. Among the classes taught using the Terrace View Cafe is a Dining Room and Beverage Management class.
"This semester, our American Regional Cuisine class will be operating the back of the house with food preparation and standardizing recipes," Mr. Powell says. "This class has spent time learning about culinary regional differences of the United States." The chef even hopes to get into the hot topic of molecular gastronomy - the relationship of culinary arts and the science of gastronomy.
Dining in the Terrace View Cafe, which is in College Hall 148, is by reservation because space and hours are limited. Lunch is served from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on selected Tuesdays. Cost is $6.95 with tax and beverage included.
"We literally are a melting pot of culinary influences," Mr. Powell says of American cuisine. And the term's menus reflect that. For example, today's menu (sold out) is a Black History Lunch with smoked ham and black-eyed pea soup, buttermilk fried chicken breast, macaroni and cheese, Southern-style greens, and sweet potato pie with cinnamon cream.
On March 6, there is a Southwestern approach with corn and green chili chowder and grilled breast of chicken with homemade raspberry-chipotle barbecue sauce.
Florida cuisine will be featured on March 27 with Key West-style black bean soup, which the chef describes as similar to Cuban black bean soup finished with sherry and smoked pork and topped with a dollop of cilantro-infused sour cream.
On March 20, the menu will be a little more international. "We want to reinforce a strong commitment to fundamentals of culinary arts and classics with foods such as French Onion Soup en croute," Mr. Powell says. "We'll drape [the bowl] with a puff pastry."
A strong Asian influence coming out of California and the Pacific Northwest will be evident on the April 10 menu with ginger-soy marinated pork loin, and spinach salad with mandarin oranges, pickled red onions, and wonton crisps.
"We encourage students to deconstruct recipes and dishes and look at different components," the chef says. "Students look at the contrast of texture, flavor, and individual ingredients and how they come together to create the dish."
An Italian theme is scheduled on April 17. "A nice way to introduce seafood is to wrap it in prosciutto," Mr. Powell says. He wants students to step out of their comfort zones and try something new.
Next fall, this group of students will move into international cuisine class, garde manger (gahrd mahn-ZHAY), and a food and wine seminar discussing viticulture and pairing food and wine together. Over the summer, they'll take a techniques of healthy cooking class.
"It's a very busy two years. They are in the kitchen cooking every term," the chef says.
The first students in the program will graduate in the spring of 2008. Says Mr. Powell: "We try to make students externally competitive so they can go to any market."
For information and reservations, call 567-661-2493.