Tag Archives: Pulaski Tech

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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PTC Culinary School Hosts Certified Master Chefs

4 Jun

If you’re a foodie, it may interest you to know that there is an elite group of chefs in the nation. Their allegiance lies in that they have all successfully completed a grueling, eight-day testing process that covers both culinary knowledge and practical skills.

There are currently only 66 people who have achieved the ranking of Certified Master Chef (CMC), and only 11 who hold the similar title in the pastry realm as a Certified Master Pastry Chef (CMPC).

This Tuesday, June 5, two of these chefs will be in Little Rock to judge the Diamond Chef Arkansas competition, taking place that night at the Statehouse Convention Center. Certified Master Chefs John Johnstone and Peter Timmins have also graciously offered to speak at Pulaski Technical College Arkansas Culinary School that morning, 10 a.m. until noon, to discuss becoming (and being) a Certified Master Chef. Students and the public are encouraged to attend.

The CMC certification comes from the American Culinary Federation, the same organization that governs accreditation of culinary schools such as Pulaski Technical College Arkansas Culinary School. Pulaski Tech gained accreditation status from the American Culinary Federation Education Foundation in 2010, giving all its students the opportunity to graduate with the ACF’s Certified Culinarian status.

The American Culinary Federation has a fascinating section of their website about becoming a CMC, with a video. It is definitely awe-inspiring.

Event details:

Certified Master Chef Presentation

Pulaski Technical College Arkansas Culinary School (South Campus)

Crain Community Room
10 a.m. – noon

Free to students and the public

Diamond Chef 2012 Preliminaries Today

6 Mar

March 6, 2012

Note: See real-time updates here.

Can you get away from the office or the house this afternoon? Some super-talented chefs, converging upon the lobby of the Peabody Hotel in downtown Little Rock, will make it worth your foodie while. And, while the finale event will cost you $150, today’s drop-by-when-you-can style event is free.

From 1 – 7 p.m. today, the Diamond Chef Arkansas preliminary competition will take place amid a blur of proteins and pantry products, many of which will be revealed to the competitors in the form of a mystery basket, as on the popular television show “Chopped.”

The chefs, with the help of one sous chef, will have 40 minutes to prepare a dish using all the ingredients in the basket. Judges will score the dishes based on taste and creativity, as well as technical proficiency and sanitation.

On June 5, Pulaski Technical College Arkansas Culinary School will hold the Diamond Chef finale, a ticketed event showdown between today’s two top contenders. At that event, guests will enjoy a fine dining menu while the chefs compete on stage, creating a three-course meal using a protein that will be announced just moments before the competition begins.

Tickets to the finale event cost $150 per person and can be purchased by calling Yvette Parker at (501) 812-2271 or e-mailing yparker@pulaskitech.edu

Continue to watch for additional posts here at Fancy Pants Foodie or on Twitter at @ARFoodie for real-time updates.

Preliminary competition schedule for today:

Heat #1 – 1 p.m.- Chef Cynthia Malik and sous Richard Goetz (Pulaski Technical College Arkansas Culinary School) vs. Chef Matt Cooper and sous Mario Flores (Lulav)

Heat #2 – 2 p.m. – Chef Donnie Ferneau (Ferneau Restaurant) vs. Chef Jason Knapp (UCA/Aramark)

Heat #3 – 3 p.m. – Chef Bonner Cameron (Ya Ya’s Euro Bistro) vs. Chef Stephen Burrow (Clinton Presidential Center)

Heat #4 – 4 p.m. – Chef Jeffrey Ferrell (Capital Hotel) vs. Chef Diana Bratton (Taco Mama and Café 1217)

Heat #5 – 5 p.m.: Semi-finals

Heat #6 – 6 p.m.: Semi-finals

Chef Ball 2012 Menu and Photos

27 Feb

Tonight’s Chef Ball was a whirlwind, both for the attendees and behind the scenes. This will be my third time participating, and I’ve yet to hear much of anything from the event room itself.

My place, my passion, at least for now, is in the back, making plates. I had the privilege of helping several extraordinary chefs put together amazing dishes tonight. For those who couldn’t join us tonight, or even for those who were there, I want to share some photos from behind the scenes.

Since tonight was also the night of the Oscars, each course had a movie theme.

Next year, I won’t be a student anymore, and I’m not sure what my role will be for this event. Maybe I’ll have a seat in the dining room. But tonight, I gained knowledge and insight from chefs behind the scenes, and I’ll be a better cook for it.

Hors D’Oeuvres

Presented by Chef Cynthia Malik
Pulaski Technical College Arkansas Culinary School

"Mudbug" salad in endive

Associated Southern-Style Fish and Seafood Display (The Help)
– Included peeled shrimp, oysters with greens and cornbread, and (above) “Mudbug” salad on endive leaves.

Plantain chips with black beans, roasted pork and mango salsa.

Plantain Chips, Cuban-Style Roasted Pork with Black Bean and Mango Salsa (Chico and Rita)

Pissaladiere — Onion Confit, Anchovies, Olives and Thyme on Puff Pastry (Hugo)

Millas (Polenta) Topped with Roquefort and Figs (Hugo)

Herbed Goat Cheese and Roasted Beets on Irish Soda Bread with Hazelnut Vinaigrette (Albert Nobbs)

Assorted Guo Tie (Potstickers) with Dipping Sauces (Kung Fu Panda 2)

Presented by Chefs Terri Johnson, CC and Brandon Douglas, CEC
Big Rock Bistro

“Best Foreign Flavor”
Mediterranean-Style Kibbeh Kabob, Deconstructed Blood Orange Tzatziki

Soup & Salad
Presented by Chef Brian Kearns
Country Club of Little Rock

“The Ensemble Cast”
Roasted Apple and Turnip Soup; Duck Confit and Rye; Smoked Trout with Baby Greens, Dried Cherries, Bacon and Truffle

Presented by Chef Dan Capello, CEC
Chenal Country Club

“Red Carpet Redux”
Citrus Poached Arkansas Catfish with Aromatic Topping, Truffle Polenta, Haricot Verts and Pistachio

Presented by Chefs Jamie McAfee, CEC and Jay McAfee, CEC
Pine Bluff Country Club

“Beef Oscar”
Whole Beef Tenderloin Medallions, with Asparagus Spears and Lump Crab, topped with Hollandaise Sauce and served with Purple Potatoes

Presented by Chef Jan Lewandowski, CEPC
Pulaski Technical College Arkansas Culinary School

“Concession Stand Connoisseur”
Chocolate and Caramel Bouchon with Candied Popcorn

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Rawking Out Chef Ball Tonight

26 Feb

Forget the other award shows — the place to be tonight is Pulaski Technical College for the 2012 Chef Ball. This event, hosted by the Arkansas Chapter of the American Culinary Federation, celebrates the state’s practicing and training culinarians.

The event features several expertly-prepared courses, each prepared by a different chef (most of whom are instructors at PTC’s Arkansas Culinary School) and a team of student assistants.

Follow me tonight on Twitter (@ARFoodie) for live photos and updates. For now, salivate over this incredible artisan bread (pugliese, sesame crackers and focaccia) made by instructor Chef Billy Ginocchio.

The Marzipan Taunts Me (Dumb Luck at Making Roses)

8 Feb

It is seriously all I can do to not eat the entire bag of marzipan (a sugar-and-almond dough-like substance, used for modeling edible forms and flowers) I brought home from Cakes & Cake Decorating class.

We are supposed to practice making roses out of it, using the technique outlined in a video we watched in class. Although I can’t say my form is completely perfect, my second attempt (the first being at school) today was pretty darn okay.

Does that mean I can eat it? I. Love. Marzipan.

Here’s how I did it:

First, I rolled the marzipan into a 1″-thick or so log. I cut the following pieces with a sharp paring knife:

  • One 1.5″ piece
  • Two 1″ pieces
  • Eight 3/4″ pieces

Each of these is rolled into a sphere, then into a cone shape. The first piece will be more conical than the others.

Using a plastic dough scraper/bench knife, you gently squash the cone into a flat, large oval, which will be thicker and wider on the fat end of the cone. Hopefully.

The guy in the video did this in two strokes, both at the same 45 degree or so angle across the cone. The first time, you leave some of the fat end untouched, and the second time you get the whole thing.

Okay, so my "bench knife" was a cheesy pasta measure thing that came in the mail. My real one is...somewhere.

Still a little lumpy. I later switched to a sturdier bench knife that left fewer ridges.


Next, I rolled the center of the rose with this largest piece, using the thick end toward the bottom. I used the extra at the bottom to squish out a base.




Next, I flattened the next two petals in similar fashion, gave them a little pleat in the side (see below) and stuck them tightly around the base.

My problem with my earlier attempt at school is that I let these drape widely, making the flower look too much like a pansy or something. Roses are more tightly wound in the middle.

Now I spread, pleated and placed the next three petals, from the remaining eight pieces.


Pleat all one layer's petals at once and lay them face down on the work surface until you're ready.

Now, just the remaining five pieces await. These will stick on a little differently, so stay frosty.

Since these final petals will be visible from the outside, you’ll want to make sure each one tucks underneath the one before it. You know, to look all natural and junk. So before you completely press down one side, hold it open and position the next petal.

Aaaaand….voila. The finished rose. Like I said, I had some dumb luck this time, and it took a little pre-fiddling at class to get the idea. It’s worth giving it a try. You can purchase marzipan by the bucket at cake supply stores and online.

Besides, they’re delicious, whether they turn out pretty or not. So are the scraps.

I’m just saying.

Cakes and Cake Decorating Class at Pulaski Tech (with recipe for Swiss Buttercream)

31 Jan

Delish, no?

Too bad I can’t eat it. Oh well. The hubs and kids will feast after dinner tonight.

Last night was our second lab in Cakes and Cake Decorating Class, and the first time we really got to go at it on a cake. So incredibly fun!

I didn’t get as much time as I would have liked to decorate, since we took so long learning the ropes of splitting and filling cakes and making Swiss buttercream frosting. It is a little wonky in places, and I had to use someone else’s vivid green rather than my own pastel just because I ran out of time to bag it up. But not too shabby for a first try.

Swiss buttercream, by the way, is so incredibly delicious, I think I’ll never make the regular kind again. It’s shiny and not too sweet. You get…well…heck. I’ll just show you the ingredient list that Chef J wrote on the board:


Swiss Buttercream 

Ingredients for Swiss buttercream

Place the egg whites and sugar in the mixer bowl over a pan of simmering water, and stir until the sugar is melted and the whole thing is just a little gooey, about 140 degrees. Then place this into your mixer with the whip attachment and kick it up to high for a while.

Conveniently, you don’t have to worry about overbeating, because the sugar acts as a stabilizer.

Once the mixture is well beaten, shiny and fluffy, check the temperature, which needs to come down closer to room temp before adding the butter. Usually the action of the mixer will do this, but some mixers add heat. If this happens, just place the mixer bowl into a bowl of ice for a minute or two and return your goo to the machine.

Now turn the mixer back on and add the butter, a room-temp chunk at a time (no need to be too pretty about cutting it up), while the mixer whips it together. Add the vanilla.

If you want to add chocolate, melt about 8 ounces of white chocolate or 12 ounces of semi-sweet, and let it cool slightly, then add. If you want to have some colors as well as chocolate, you can split up the batch and mix in the chocolate and the color bases separately, by hand.


I want to walk you through everything else we did recipe-style, but it will take for-eh-vah. I’ll just regale you with photos of each step so you can be jealous that I actually get a grade for this sort of activity.

Meanwhile, I’ve found a recipe for a gluten-free poundcake, which I think I’ll use for our next project.

Stay tuned.

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Food Production 4 Dishes

18 Oct

Maple Glazed Salmon with Cranberry Chutney and Succotash and Cheddar Souffle

This semester is clipping right along at Pulaski Technical College Arkansas Culinary School. Next semester will be my last.

I have mixed feelings about that. Although I’m soooo ready to be done, I really love the classes, the chefs, and the opportunities I have in labs to learn and experiment that I may not have again. (I mean, really, I want to make pate again, but buying all that equipment, not to mention the ingredients?)

My most demanding class right now, as I have said, is Food Production 4, as it should be. This class is the culmination of everything we’ve learned in culinary school. It’s usually taken in one’s final semester, but just due to scheduling, I have just two more classes to eek out from here.

So far, in this class, I’ve worked garde manger (pantry or “cold” station, where salads and such are made), front-of-house service, and a good bit of the grill station when acting as sous chef.

I’ve sent a few photos via Twitter (I’m more active there these days, due to my schedule), but I thought I’d share some photos here of our dishes from our Thursday night dinner service.

(Think I could use parentheses a little more? They’re my favorite vice.)

I believe we are booked solid for the remainder of the semester, but do check back next semester for lunch.


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Sad Babies, Blood Loss, and a One-Egg Mayo

12 Sep

That was probably the weirdest title I’ve ever written. Anyway.

My four year old boy was a little clingy last week. Every morning, except Fridays, he has to get dressed and go somewhere. I know there are lots of working families out there for whom this is the norm, but he’s just not used to it. Thursday, he started whining, “I just want you to stay home wif me and cuddle and watch cartoons. I want you to go get doughnut holes wif me.”

Now, Thursdays are usually open-ish for me, until I go to Food Production 4 at 3 p.m. But he goes to Mother’s Day Out at our church, and I had planned to go to school for a while and do some early mise so we wouldn’t be so slammed this week.

I made him get dressed and go, although it hurt me a little. He was happy when he got there, and I promised him a special day just for us on Friday, including doughnuts.

I managed to spend a little over an hour at the school before class, gathering stuff for that night. It did help having a big hotel pan full of our mise before class officially started at 3 p.m. By 2:30, most of the students were there and we were busily getting things ready.

This week I was on cold pantry again, and I was in charge, with a new partner to show the ropes. Things were going well, until… the caesar.

I made a fairly elaborate caesar dressing from scratch, and at near the last step, it was ruined by a rotten egg. I’ve already spent waaaay to much time on this. I remade it and carried it to the chef, tasting spoon in hand, for his approval.

He didn’t like the texture. “Make a one-egg mayo and mix this into it.”

Really? From scratch. I don’t have time.

I snuck around the kitchen, which also serves the school’s cafe, looking for some ready-made mayo. When I’d spent way too much time looking, I finally found some…only to find the chef standing there. Make the mayo, he said.

I confessed that I couldn’t remember exactly how to do it. He disappeared, and then returned with a printed recipe. I made the mayo.

And I was not.happy.about.it.

I grumbled while I whisked. My arm ached. I’m out of time. I’d been allowed to use a blender or mixer in the previous class where we made mayo because of my fibromyalgia. There was none to be found in today’s kitchen. Grrrr.

I finished the mayo (with a little final whisking help from my partner, while I poured the oil) and mixed it with the dressing. It was lovely, and the mayo gave it a delicious eggy richness that a prepared version would not have provided.

Dang him for being right.

A little later, my partner and I were slicing apples for two different vinaigrettes. The recipe called for fine brunoise, or 1/16″ cubes. We struggled to cut out enough from our apples, many of which were at least partly spoiled.

The chef came by. “Not fine enough,” he said, showing us how he wanted them — actually much finer than 1/16″. We started over.

“I want demo plates in 15 minutes,” the chef boomed to the whole kitchen.

The chef came by a few minutes later, as we struggled. Still not fine enough. Throw it out and start over.

At this point, I was pretty hacked off.

Honestly, I thought. Isn’t there a point where you just get the dish out? But I knew the answer: In fine dining, not really. We started over and got the apples done, and finished out our dressings.

Somehow, with the help of the night’s sous chef (who took over our parmesan tuilles) and the fry station (who took over the amuse bouche), we got everything ready.

Then, I nearly cut off the tip of my finger with a peeler.

I noticed, just before service, that we still didn’t have the parmesan shavings we needed for the caesar salad. I grabbed by beloved Oxo peeler and handed it toward my partner for him to do the shavings.

What happened next, I’m not exactly sure. It was some sort of reflex action, to flick the blade with my other hand. Maybe I was checking that there wasn’t a protective cover still on it, as often happens with the student peelers that come in our kits. Maybe I was seeing if the blade was facing the right direction, since they sometimes get flipped. Whatever it was, it was subconscious, and it was really stupid.

So, moments before our guests were being seated, my finger is gushing blood, and I’m hopping around with equal amounts of horror and anger.

A well-heeled fellow student escorted me to the chef’s office, where he whipped out the chef’s first aid kit and doctored me up. Two bandages and two gloves later, I convinced the chef that I was fine for service.

The chef made me sit with my hands over my head for a moment, but my arms ached. I wanted to prove myself. I was (fairly) certain the bleeding had stopped, or at least slowed down enough that I was good to go. We’ll check it again after service to see if I need stitches.

We got our plates out that night, and they looked great. We somehow pulled it off.

And my finger, although painful, seemed to be holding together enough that it wouldn’t need professional attention. I convinced the chef that there was no need for an incident report. Enough drama already.

The next day, I took my son out for a much-deserved doughnut at Krispy Kreme. As we watched the magic behind the glass production wall, I thought about things like food safety, doughnut recipes and the role of the busy manager there.

Then I turned back to my little boy, and we enjoyed a treat together — a much-deserved reward for us both.

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Stupid computers and Twice-Baked Potato Bites

10 Sep

Finished potato-y goodness, minus some paprika and parm we sprinkled on at the end.

I wrote a long, satisfying blog post yesterday, forgot to hit “save,” and left the computer in a hurry. Turns out autosave only works if you’ve manually saved at least once.


I told the long version of this week’s restaurant service at school, most notably when I nearly cut off the end of my left index finger with a peeler. Typing this is extremely difficult. I hope you’re feeling the love through my efforts here.

I suppose I’ll try to rewrite it, because it was actually quite good. Dangit. So I’ll just give you a brief rundown of what we did in another class this week.

In banquets and catering, we had a long (looong) discussion on the business end of starting a catering business: insurance, taxes, and pricing to make a profit. If you’ve ever priced an event and nearly fell out at the cost, I now know it’s with good reason. In our book’s example, the caterer had to build about $1300 into every job just to cover overhead. Wow.

At least now we know how to actually make money and not blow it on the light bill (and rent, and salaries) we forgot to work in.

A fellow student pipes the yummy potato mixture back into the baked shells.

Afterward, we went into the kitchen to make some appetizers for an event the school was catering. My group made the most awesome tiny, twice-baked potatoes. We were given some leeway on how to flavor the filling, so my friend Deborah and I came up with chives, goat cheese and a splash of worchestershire. Oh, and a buncha butter. And salt and pepper, of course. Turned out great.

I started to type a recipe, and quickly found I have no idea how to quantify it. But basically, you get size “B” red potatoes (the smallish ones), cut off the ends, and cut the whole thing in half. With the larger (from the middle) side up, scoop out some potato with a melon baller or teaspoon. Oil and season the “shells,” and bake at 325 for about 40 minutes, or until they’re browned and done all the way through.

Meanwhile, boil all the scooped out potato in some salted water, and when it’s tender, drain, reserving some of the water. Put in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment and some butter, and mix until smooth. Now the fun part: mix in cheese, herbs, whatever you want. If the mixture is dry, pour back in some of the starchy water.

Put the resulting yummy goodness in a piping bag and pipe into the shells. (Or, you could just use a spoon if you want.) Top with paprika and shredded cheese if you like. We froze them at this point for later use, but you can go ahead and brown them in the oven some more and serve.

These were yummay! I’m starting to think it may not be so horrible to cater an event. The idea horrified me before. These little bits of deliciousness were inspiring.

What kind of little goodies have you made for formal events? Ever cater anything? Let me know your thoughts.