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Pulaski Tech hosts Food Day to discuss community, health and economy

22 Oct

Food DayPulaski Technical College’s Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management Institute will host a Food Day panel discussion and food demonstrations with chefs, farmers and doctors on Oct. 23 to discuss how food choices affect the community, environment, economy, and public health.

The discussion begins at 11 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 23, in the Celebrity Chef Theatre at the Culinary Arts and Hospitality Institute, 13000 Interstate 30.

The panelists are Jack Sundell, chef/owner of The Root Café; Jody Hardin, a farmer for St. Joseph Farm and Farm and Food Innovation Center; Dr. Meenakshi Budhraja, gastroenterologist and nutrition educator; and Chef Suzanne Campbell, a culinary instructor at Pulaski Technical College.

The discussion will focus on food safety, health, seasonal cooking, and food preservation. Questions will be accepted from the audience, and the panelists will provide a cooking demonstration using locally grown products.

The event is being held in conjunction with Food Day, a nationwide celebration and a movement for healthy, affordable, and sustainable food. The event is free and open to the public. To reserve a seat, contact Kendal Haycook (501) 812-2860 or email khaycook@pulaskitech.edu

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Chef James Harris Spotlights Gluten Free Cuisine at Eggshells (with Recipe for Gluten Free, Vegan, Sugar Free Chocolate Cupcakes)

26 Aug

Frosted cupcakes captionedRemember the other day when I talked about doing a cooking demonstration at the local Gluten Intolerance Group meeting? Because it was a busy day, I felt a little discombobulated and spazzy. Not my best presentation ever. 

But a good bit of my discombobulation was from being a bit nervous, due to a guest who showed up at said meeting. A chef. A “real” chef, one with years of experience specializing in gluten free cooking. (Although I have formal training, I shy away from the “chef” moniker because of my lack of restaurant experience.) 

He was gracious, not correcting me when he probably should have, and chiming in gently when I asked for his input. Only later did we find out he was Executive Sous Chef at the Pleasant Valley Country Club and former chef of the National Foundation of Celiac Awareness.

Dang. 

After the meeting, we also learned that this chef, James Harris, was holding a gluten free cooking class of his own at Eggshells Kitchen Co. the next Monday (yesterday). I had heard about this and meant to look into it further. Now I HAD to go!

I walked in the door of Eggshells, and lo and behold, a fellow culinary student was also in attendance. Ashley is now a pastry chef, working at one of the major bakeries in town. I visited with Chef Harris, joking about our earlier meeting and my less-than-stellar demo. He graciously blamed it on the low table I was using.

Somehow, during Chef Harris’ demonstration, I ended up cooking the risotto while he worked on other parts of the demonstration. Maybe it was me wildly waving my hand in the air, saying, “Ooh, ooh, ooh, let me help!” when he lamented not having an assistant. Ashley ended up helping later on — probably due to my hollering “ASHLEY WANTS TO HELP ICE THE CUPCAKES” — with the vegan, sugar free, gluten free dessert we enjoyed. (No, really; it was good!) Culinarians can be a rowdy bunch. 

Chef Harris’ risotto recipe, using shallots, mushrooms and asparagus, was an excellent example of how delicious naturally gluten-free meals can be. He also demonstrated cooking scallops and (cough) gave us a recipe for gluten-free pasta. Let’s just say live demos don’t always work out. Oh, how I know. 

Here’s the recipe for the cupcakes. This would be great for getting a “sweet fix” while on an elimination diet, or for those with multiple allergies or sensitivities. Heck, they were just good, just because. And I didn’t sugar crash after eating one. Okay, two. Sheesh.

Wanna see photos of the other food and fun? Keep scrollin’ on down, beneath the recipes. 

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Chocolate Cupcakes (Gluten Free, Vegan, Sugar Free)
Recipe provided by Chef James Harris
Makes 10

  • 1 1/2 c. gluten-free flour (recommended: Cup 4 Cup)
  • 3/4 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp. gluten-free baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp. gluten-free baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 avocado
  • 1 c. maple syrup (pure)
  • 1/3 c. coconut oil
  • 1 c. almond milk
  • 1/3 c. coconut milk
  • 2 tsp. gluten-free vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place cupcake liners in a muffin pan. 

Whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt in a bowl. Puree avocado in a food processor until smooth. Add maple syrup, almond milk, coconut milk, oil and vanilla and blend until creamy.

Whisk avocado mixture into the flour mixture and combine until smooth. 

Spoon batter into muffin pan and bake for 25 minutes or until toothpick that is inserted into center comes out clean.

Allow to cool before icing. 

 

Chocolate Mousse Icing
Recipe provided by Chef James Harris
Icing for 10 cupcakes

  • 1 c. raw cashews
  • 1/4 c. coconut milk
  • 1/4 c. cocoa powder
  • 1/3 c. dates, pitted and chopped
  • 1 T. maple syrup (pure)

Place all ingredients in a food processor or blender and blend together until very smooth. If it is too thick, add more coconut milk to thin it slightly. 

 

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Gluten Free Chicken Pot Pie Class at PTC March 22

14 Feb
gluten free chicken pot pie

Amazeballs gluten free chicken pot pie, if I do say so myself. Learn to make your own at my class!

I had a lot to do last night.

Pinterest-y Valentines for the Kindergartener’s friends. A not-so-Pinterest-y Beyblade Valentine mailbox for same Kindergartener. Spray-painting elements for said box outside. Realizing that wasn’t going to work and going out for red plastic plates. Baths. Homework. All that momma stuff.

For some unknown reason, I decided it would be a dandy night to make chicken pot pie from scratch. Well, sorta from scratch; my mom brought a rotisserie chicken over at lunch, and the leftovers pretty much demanded to be pot pie. They told me so.

It’s just as well, since I’m teaching a class next month at Pulaski Technical College’s Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management Institute on this very dish. Why not practice a few times? Yum.

The whole pot pie. In class, we'll probably make individual-sized ones. Equally delicious.

The whole pot pie. In class, we’ll probably make individual-sized ones. Equally delicious.

Last night’s version used (gasp) frozen veggies, just because it’s what I had and I forgot to go to Kroger. Sue me. (In class, we’ll bust out our real knife skills on real-life veggies. Because you need the practice.) Well, I did dice a real onion and some garlic, so there’s that.

Want to make your own? Of course you do. This dish was amazing, even with cheater ingredients. We’ll go over how to mix your own gluten-free all-purpose flour (and save a ton of cash) in our class. I’ll teach you how to make flaky pie crust that nobody will know is gluten-free, even your picky gluten-eating family. And we’ll package them up to freeze and bake whenever the pot pie siren calls. (Or, you can bring it home for dinner that night.)

The class is $75 for four hours of instruction and lots of tomfoolery. But productive tomfoolery. Let’s just say we’ll have fun.

Sign up for this class by calling (501) 907-6670, ext. 3407 or emailing Emily Story, Director of Community Education at PTC. See you there!

Gluten Free Pot Pie Class
Pulaski Technical College Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management Institute
Community Kitchen
Saturday, March 22, 2014
12:30 – 4:30 p.m.
$75 per person

Holy Cow, Y’all, I Sharpened My Knives

8 Oct

Ahem.

I’m a little embarrassed to admit how excited I was to finally sharpen some of my chef’s knives this weekend. More specifically, I was really excited upon using the first one I sharpened, a crappy santoku that was part of one of those newlywed starter kits, with steak knives and everything. Making a brunch hash Saturday, that santoku plowed through an onion like I haven’t done in ages.

Wüsthof two-stage knife sharpener I just bought at Kreb's, and the crappy santoku it resurrected.

Wüsthof two-stage knife sharpener I just bought at Kreb’s, and the crappy santoku it resurrected.

Shameful, really.

I haven’t even gotten to my better-quality knives yet, including the ones that were issued to me in culinary school. I’m pretty sure that is going to be life-changing.

So, why did I not do this sooner? Well, combine my fatigue issues (read: limited to-dos each day) with a mom/blogger/business owner’s schedule, and you pretty much get it. And besides, I’m not the only one. Just about every chef I’ve worked with on events or stages grumbled about his/her knife. “If I would just make time to sharpen this dang thing!” “It’s been so long since I sharpened, my (insert crappy knife brand) is sharper than my Shun.”

The cobbler has no shoes. And the chef, very often, has no sharp knife.

This isn’t always the case, though. One instructor in school made a near holy ritual out of sharpening his knives, taking an occasional whole day away from his busy schedule to do so. He made sure it was clear to us not to do this too often, honing in-between. (You know, that stick-looking thing that might have come with your knives? It’s not a sharpener. More on that later.)

Here comes my big confession about the whole thing…I sharpened my knives with a cheater draw-through sharpener I bought this weekend at Kreb’s/The Restaurant Store. Echoing through my brain: real chefs use a sharpening stone. I used a stone during school, indeed. I bought one for the house long ago. And somehow, I lost the touch. (Either that, or I bought a crappy stone.)

So, I’ve come to the conclusion that, no matter how you get to it, a sharp knife is a sharp knife. And to be an effective cook, either in a professional kitchen or at home, that’s what you need. It’s really almost all you need.

That said, here are all your options for getting that sharp knife:

  1. A draw-through sharpener. This is what I finally purchased that got things going. I bought a two-stage model by Wüsthof for about $20, but I’ve also had a tiny version with just one stage that worked pretty well. I can’t find it right now, hence the new purchase. (Time to clean the gadget drawers.) This and its electric cousin below generally grind off miscreant bits of metal into just the right angle, usually 20 degrees each side. Use a lighter touch than you think, just a little more than the weight of the knife itself.
  2. Electric sharpener. Kitchen toy purveyors like Dillard’s and Williams Sonoma carry electric knife sharpeners that grind your knives to just the right angle with little to no effort on your part. I’m not sure this is worth the extra expense, but it is a viable way to get your knives sharp quickly.
  3. Whetstone. The stone is the professional standard for sharpening. It takes a steeper learning curve and more time than the other sharpeners, but the result is more even and removes less of the blade. It requires the user to hold the knife at just the right angle while drawing against the stone.  Again, this is usually 20 degrees, but it’s sometimes different depending on the type of knife, a situation in which a DIY option is better.
  4. Professional sharpening. If you just can’t find the time or don’t want to purchase anything, there are several retailers who are glad to do the sharpening for you for free. In central Arkansas, two I know of are Kreb’s and Williams Sonoma. But, of course, this is just a way to get you in the store so you’ll be tempted to buy more stuff, so it might be best to invest in one of the above!

More another time on choosing a decent knife to begin with, and why that crappy santoku probably won’t hold the new sharp edge very long.

How often do you sharpen your knives? Or have you ever done it at all?

Foodie Event Roundup for the Week

4 Oct

Ooof. Food coma. Lemme see what I can muster.

This is always a busy time for foodies, with all kinds of events and classes going on. Here’s the scoop on just a few of these things, both for those who enjoy cooking good food and those who just want to enjoy eating it.

Image

Strip steak with exotic mushroom demi-glace and War Eagle grits and braised greens. Fourth course of five at last night’s The Next Course dinner for Youth Home.

  • Last night’s The Next Course event at the Clinton Presidential Center for Youth Home was amazing! Their equally-amazing event coordinator, Larry Betz, is working on getting the instructional videos shown at the event ready to share with you here, so we’ll wait a little while for the event wrap-up. But I will then definitely share some of the recipes with you, and maybe I’ll tackle one myself. They are fancy pants, indeed.
    .
  • Tomorrow is the Main Street Food Truck Festival in Little Rock. The guys over at Eat Arkansas wrote a fine roundup of all the goings-on this year, with one notable difference: NO TICKETS. Hooray! Hopefully that will help with the line situation. (See my snarky post from last year on that whole sitch.) Also hopefully, we will have better weather this year than last. I helped my friend Travis Meyer with his smoked sausage stand last year and we got totally soaked. But it’s a great event, and I hope you’ll come, even if you have to wait a bit or get a little wet.
    .
  • I just found out that Wildwood Park for the Performing Arts is not doing their Harvest Festival or annual culinary competition this year, but is instead doing an acoustic music event this weekend. So if you were looking for that secret ingredient to be announced (I know I wasn’t the only one…right?), you’ll have to keep on waiting. But do go to the new event, which looks like a lot of fun!

Other notable upcoming events and classes:

  • “Southern Comfort with Chef Mark Abernathy,” community education class at Pulaski Technical College Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management Institute. Spend an evening learning techniques and recipes exploring Chef Abernathy’s Modern Southern cuisine, as served at his restaurants Loca Luna and Red Door. Wednesday, Oct. 9, 6 – 8 p.m., $70. Must pre-register by Oct. 6.
    .
  • “Pasta Party! For the Love of Pasta — Fresh and Dried Pasta and Assorted Pasta Dishes,” community education class at Pulaski Technical College Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management Institute, with Chef Cynthia Malik. Thursday, Oct. 10, 5:30 – 8 p.m., $45. Must pre-register by Oct. 7.
    .

    Image

    Outstanding in the Field’s vintage red bus travels across the nation with supplies for fine dining in the field of your friendly neighborhood farmer, this time in Proctor, Ark.

  • Outstanding in the Field. The OITF vintage big red bus will be making a stop at Delta Sol Farm in Proctor, Ark. next Thursday, Oct. 10. This farm-to-table event — served literally in a field — is one of many the organization has held across the nation, this time highlighting Little Rock’s Chefs Matt Bell of South on Main and Alexis Jones of Natchez, as well as Memphis Chefs Andrew Ticer and Michael Hudman of Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen and Jonathan Magallanes of Las Tortugas, all led by Memphis’ Chef Kelly English of Restaurant Iris. Tickets are $180 and may be purchased at the event website.
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  • “Tasting Like a Pro,” Wine and Spirits community education class at Pulaski Technical College Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management Institute. Learn firsthand, without all the pretentious junk, the common techniques used by winemakers, sommeliers, critics, judges and other professionals, as well as the important wine attributes and essential aromas and tastes of the world’s most recognized wines. Thursday, Oct. 10, 6 – 8 p.m., $75. Must pre-register by Oct. 7.

Preview: Amazing New Pulaski Tech Culinary Arts Facility Opens Monday

13 Aug
Pulaski Tech's Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management Institute begins classes in its new (sq ft) facility on Monday, August 19.

Pulaski Tech’s Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management Institute begins classes in its new facility on Monday, August 19.

Last month, amid a flurry of work-related travel, I got to sneak a peek at the new Pulaski Tech Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management Institute in Little Rock. This Monday, August 19, the facility will open its doors to its first group of students.

Director of Programs Todd Gold took me on a tour on what happened to be my birthday. Although I have already graduated from the program, previously held just across the parking lot at PTC’s South Campus, I felt like I was getting a present.

Suffice it to say, I am extremely jealous of the students who get to attend here. At least I’ll have the opportunity to teach a food writing course here and possibly some gluten-free community classes soon! I’ll let you know when we have dates and details.

I’ve already written extensively about this new facility and what it will offer, but I found out a couple new details during this tour.

First, the institute is pioneering a new program, called Pulaski Tech 3D, to enable young adults with developmental and learning disabilities to train for jobs in foodservice and hospitality. According to coordinator Linda Ducrot, this innovative program will begin with just a few students but will grow with demand and capacity. It will feature an 18-month structured daytime program covering the basics of professional conduct, food preparation, safety and hospitality, also offering these students the opportunity to continue to degree programs if they choose. Those interested in attending the program can find more information on Pulaski Tech’s website.

Also, the institute plans on a new marketing approach, aiming to draw regional and international students in addition to those from Arkansas. Gold said this is a natural evolution, being the only major accredited culinary/hospitality program in the state and one of few in the region, with the added advantage of being a lower-cost option to private institutions such as the Culinary Institute of America, using much of the same curriculum. Gold doesn’t aim to grow the program substantially in numbers anytime soon, though, taking a quality-over-quantity approach as the program grows into its new facility over the next few years.

On the down-low, there’s talk of a big grand opening ceremony later on this year, possibly with a chef or two of national reputation. I haven’t heard a lot of confirmation about all that, as they’re just doing what’s needed to get school started on Monday for now. If you just can’t wait to see the facility, I hear you can stop by at 7:15 Monday morning for the first official walk-through before classes start.

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First-Look Walkthrough
7:15 a.m.

Pulaski Technical College
Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management Institute
13000 Interstate 30
Little Rock, AR 72210

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Indian Spice Heats Up Vegetarian Night at Eggshells (with Recipes)

21 Feb
Usha Mittal displays her personal stash of amazing Indian spices she used in her dishes at Eggshells.

Usha Mittal displays her personal stash of amazing Indian spices she used in her dishes at Eggshells.

All the foodies in town know, hopefully, that Eggshells Kitchen Co. in the Heights has some of the best cooking classes in Little Rock.

I’ve hated it that I had never made it to a class. You know, two little kids, busy schedule, blah blah blah. Tonight, I finally made it to one, at the suggestion of my friend Meenakshi Budhraja. She assisted her friend, Usha Mittal, in demonstrating vegetarian food from an Indian perspective.

Hours later, my clothes still smell awesome.

My daughter Morgan and I walked into Eggshells and immediately swooned at the smell of toasting cumin (and other things we couldn’t identify). If nothing else, one thing that really sets Indian cooking apart is their use of spices. Usha later showed me her tin of spices, which could be framed as a work of art itself.

Meenakshi Budhraja and Usha Mittal prepare the Indian vegetarian meal for the hungry onlookers.

Meenakshi Budhraja and Usha Mittal prepare the Indian vegetarian meal for the hungry onlookers.

Some of them, like the cumin and cayenne, were familiar, while others were new to me. The ladies tell me that the local Indian food stores (I know of one on Rodney Parham) can supply all the spices I didn’t already have in my arsenal, such as fenugreek and carom. (Here’s a handy chart of Indian spices for reference.)

Usha chatted with another guest about Indian culture: the importance of food and cooking, and how they frequently got together among their own community in central Arkansas. Food is a celebration, and cooking is a joy. The vibrant colors and flavors of the dishes certainly reflected that.

Guests, staff, and even staff of surrounding businesses stopped by for a plate.

Guests, staff, and even staff of surrounding businesses stopped by for a plate.

I promised the good folks at Eggshells (shoutout to Heather and crew!) I’d post the recipes, which turned out to be quite the task when gathering them from two ladies who pretty much cook by feel. Following please find and enjoy the fruit of our collective labor.

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Aaloo Tiki (Potato Cakes)

  • Equal parts red (waxy) and Russet (starchy) potatoes
  • Salt and pepper
  • Cilantro leaves, chopped
  • Fenugreek leaves
  • Breadcrumbs

Boil potatoes whole until soft. Peel and mash with a potato masher. Add salt and pepper to taste. Mix in a small handful of cilantro and fenugreek leaves and work in by hand, mashing the mix together.

Heat a small amount of canola oil in a skillet over medium heat. Create small patties of the potato mixture and coat lightly with bread crumbs. (This is optional if you want the cakes to be gluten-free, but helps keep the potato mixture from spreading.) Place patties in the oil and cook until browned on each side. Serve with cilantro chutney.

Cilantro Chutney

  • 1 bunch fresh cilantro
  • 1/2 bunch fresh mint
  • 1/2 onion, roughly chopped
  • 1-2 green chili peppers
  • Juice of one lime
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • Pinch of sugar

Combine all ingredients in a food processor or blender and combine. Add a bit of water if you desire a looser consistency.

Suvir Saran‘s Spicy Indian Slaw
Serves 12 (obviously, cut it in half it you need to, or don’t…it gets better as it sits.)

  • 1 piece of ginger, 1/2-inch, peeled and grated
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice (from about 1 lime)
  • 1 tablespoon citrus vinegar or white wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1-1/2 teaspoon chaat masala (a spice mixture)
  • 1/2 teaspoon toasted cumin
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cracked peppercorns
  • 18 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and veined for less heat, finely chopped (optional)
  • 1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, fresh, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons mint leaves, fresh, finely chopped
  • 1 head green cabbage, halved, cored and finely sliced
  • 1/2 cup peanuts, roasted chopped

My friend Meenakshi started by toasting some whole cumin seeds in a dry skillet. My daughter marveled that she would pat them flat with her bare hand, not touching the hot pan. When the seeds were just fragrant, she then ground them in a mortar and pestle, but a spice grinder would work fine if you have that. (If all that is scaring you off, just start with plain ground cumin, but know that you’re really missing out on some depth of flavor.)

To make the dressing, whisk together the ginger, lime juice, vinegar, sugar, chaat masala, toasted cumin, cayenne pepper, salt and cracked pepper in a bowl large enough to toss the entire slaw. Next, add the scallions, jalapenos, tomatoes, cilantro and mint leaves, tossing them a bit. Add the cabbage and toss with your hands, making sure to coat it thoroughly with the other ingredients. Garnish with the peanuts and maybe some more cilantro leaves.

Note: Suvir Saran is an accomplished Indian-American chef who owns the restaurant Devi in New York City, the only Indian restaurant in the U.S. to receive a Michelin star. Saran appeared on the third season of Bravo network’s Top Chef Masters.

Usha’s Butternut Squash, Indian Style
Serves 4-6

  • 1/2 tsp. dry mustard powder
  • 1/2 tsp. fenugreek powder
  • 1/2 tsp. carom powder
  • 1/2 tsp. cumin powder
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 inch piece of ginger, minced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1-14oz. can whole tomatoes
  • 1 lb. butternut squash, peeled and diced
  • 1/2 tsp. turmeric powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp. coriander powder
  • Cayenne powder to taste

Heat a couple tablespoons of oil in a large skillet. Add the mustard, fenugreek, carom and cumin. When the mustard powder starts to sputter, add the garlic, ginger and onion. Sauté until the onion starts to become translucent. Add the turmeric, coriander and cayenne.

Add the tomatoes, breaking them up a bit, then add the squash. Mix all the ingredients together, then cover over medium heat for about 10 minutes. Stir, check doneness of the squash, and continue to cook if necessary. When the squash is done, garnish with cilantro and serve.

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BLOGtober [Old Post]: I’m Certifiable (Pulaski Tech Achieves Significant Culinary and Hospitality Accreditation)

18 Oct

Note: Today’s challenge with the BLOGtober Fest from Arkansas Women Bloggers was to repost an old post. When I went through my archives, however, I found a few that were never finished or posted, mostly due to lack of time to do so. 

I found this very important post in that pile of unfinished projects, and I’ve decided to share it today. In fact, it’s timely in that Pulaski Tech is now working on their new facility and toward reaccreditation, adding certifications in Baking & Pastry as well as Wine Studies (the latter of which is through a different accrediting body). 

Pulaski Tech continues to have the only accredited culinary or hospitality program in Arkansas

Originally written on March 15, 2010

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Yes, it’s official. I’m certifiable.

OK, yes, that way, too. But what I mean is, as a Certified Culinarian. As a student of Pulaski Technical College Arkansas Culinary School, upon graduation (and completion of a little paperwork) I may now use that title.

Reason being, the school announced on Friday that the American Culinary Federation Education Foundation’s Accrediting Commission (ACFEF) and the Accreditation Commission for Programs in Hospitality Administration (ACPHA) has granted it their accreditation status. That gives us students some status in the marketplace, too.

Don’t just take it from me; here’s the official flack from the school itself.

PTC Arkansas Culinary School receives dual accreditation

LITTLE ROCK  –  The Pulaski Technical College Arkansas Culinary School today announced that it has received accreditation from the American Culinary Federation Education Foundation’s Accrediting Commission (ACFEF) and the Accreditation Commission for Programs in Hospitality Administration (ACPHA).

Dr. Dan F. Bakke, college president, and Todd Gold, director of the PTC Arkansas Culinary School, made the announcement Friday during a news conference at Little Rock-South. Guest speaker Montine McNulty, executive director of the Arkansas Hospitality Association, commended the culinary school for the accomplishment.

With this accreditation, the PTC Arkansas Culinary School joins the ranks of other nationally recognized culinary and hospitality schools, and thus offers students the opportunity to graduate with the title Certified Culinarian or Certified Hospitality Graduate. These certifications will allow graduates to enter the workforce with the most widely recognized culinary and hospitality credentials in the nation.

“These accreditations position Pulaski Technical College as a center of excellence for the culinary and hospitality industries,” Dr. Bakke said. “Tourism and hospitality are leading industries in Arkansas, and we are committed to developing a skilled workforce to meet the needs of those industries.”

The Pulaski Technical College Arkansas Culinary School is the only college in Arkansas to offer ACFEF accreditation for an Associate of Applied Science in culinary arts and is the only two-year college in the state to offer ACPHA accreditation for the Associate of Applied Science in hospitality management. ACPHA/ACFEF dual accreditation is offered at only 15 colleges and universities in the United States.

Additionally, the PTC Arkansas Culinary School apprenticeship program has received American Culinary Federation recognition as the only culinary apprenticeship program in the state.

Most importantly, these accreditations are widely recognized objective benchmarks in the culinary and hospitality professions. Pulaski Technical College Arkansas Culinary School graduates can expect to gain greatly enhanced employability based on their levels of skill and expertise as measured by these rigorous accrediting bodies.

Pulaski Technical College is a comprehensive, two-year college that serves the educational needs of central Arkansas through more than 90 occupational/technical degree and certificate programs, a university-transfer curriculum and specialized programs for business and industry.

The college’s mission is to provide access to high quality education that promotes student learning, to enable individuals to develop to their fullest potential and to support the economic development of the state.

Images from the announcement ceremony:

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Looking Back at Culinary School: A Story Best Told in Time

2 Oct

Tickets from Food IV service on a different night. Mine were messier.

Almost exactly a year ago, I wrote this post, other than a little fiddling I did today. I wrote it after a particularly sharp disagreement with one of my chef instructors at culinary school.

The original title, simply, “A Story Best Told in Time,” alluded to the fact that I couldn’t even write details about what happened yet. In the perennial words of Little Critter, I was so mad. Today, I’m over it, so I will.

In Food Production IV, a final-level class in which we did fine-dining service every Friday night, we took turns on different stations. It was my second time doing table service. Before this class, I’d never waited tables, ever. The first time I did in class, it was ugly, but it worked out.

This second time, not so much.

I got table numbers backwards. I got orders out of order. The chef was already in a rare mood that month or so, and my bumbling didn’t set very well at all. “These are big mistakes,” he bellowed from the kitchen as I ran back and forth.

However, things started to get better after drinks and appetizers went down. As I jogged from the kitchen to the dining room, I started to think to myself, “I could do this. This isn’t so bad.”

Then things got weird.

Appetizer dishes started coming out that we didn’t order, even after I had corrected all my bumbling. A runner brought a strange-looking version of the amuse bouche (pre-appetizer bite) to me. “Chef said you needed a vegetarian amuse,” she said. Not only did I not, but we weren’t even on that course anymore. What?

The entree plates were taking forever. Things were crazy in the kitchen, as they often were, but we all seemed to be a little off kilter this evening.

Finally, I saw a runner jog a tray into the dining room. She didn’t signal that it was for my table, as is custom, and she sat it near the other server, so I kept refilling drinks and waiting on my tables as other entrees came out.

Twenty minutes later or so, I came to the excruciating realization that the tray, still sitting out, was for one of my tables. A VIP one.

I’ve never had that kind of butt-chewing from a chef.

And honestly, I deserved it. I didn’t think so at the time, because the runner is supposed to tell me that it’s mine. But a good server would know what dishes were still needed, what table they belonged to, and whether or not they’d arrived yet from the kitchen.

It is with this year-later mea culpa that I understand even more deeply what culinary education is all about. We’re all pretty decent cooks, or we wouldn’t be there. It’s about taking what we may not be so good at and stretching us, making us leaders.

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When I started this real-time writing adventure with Pulaski Technical College’s Arkansas Culinary School, I wondered how all that would work out. From the beginning, the administration was aware of my project. Sometimes, my instructors knew that I was writing about their classes, and other times, they didn’t. In my last semester, I got nearly weekly reports from the culinary school office of another instructor who loved my summary of a class, and who may or may not have even known I had been writing similar stories for the past two years.

Before I started school, several friends in the industry recommended I read The Making of a Chef by Michael Ruhlman. Similar to myself, Ruhlman started out as a writer, and he went to the Culinary Institute of America to write about the process of becoming a chef. In fact, while we both went to school out of a passion for the culinary arts, he seemed to go as more of an emic research project.

Ruhlman’s thought process through the voyage from writer to chef is a fascinating one. And through this voyage, he was challenged physically, mentally and emotionally, often by way of conflict. His story of interaction with one chef instructor, Michael Pardus, was way more explosive than anything I ever experienced.

Today, Ruhlman and Pardus are close friends. They get together at one house or the other and just cook, experiment, and talk. Theirs is a fiery story that just couldn’t be told as it was happening, but with the comfort and insight of time.

I hope for this kind of relationship someday with my chef instructors. Chefs are often a passionate lot, and we did occasionally butt heads. But in the end, that passion is exactly what makes what we do so special.

Hey guys: Cooking party at my house, in a year or two. I’ll bring the Humble Pie.

Pulaski Tech’s New Culinary Facility to Feature Community School, Hospitality Training

14 Sep

Upstairs looking down and across the atrium area in the new Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management Center at Pulaski Technical College.

I blogged through two and a half years of Pulaski Technical College Arkansas Culinary School, and if you followed along, I hope you enjoyed it even half as much as I did. Thanks to an incredible faculty and staff making the most of non-optimal facilities, my education there was an incredibly rewarding experience.

If, by chance, this humble blog encouraged you to attend the school, I must admit being more than a little jealous. Those starting now will at least graduate from an incredible new Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management Center, for which I recently got to see some detailed plans by Taggart Architects.

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