Locally Grown

Locally Grown Gets The DMACC Daddy Treatment, Pt 1
2010/12/15, 8:21 am
Filed under: Local Food Commentary | Tags: , , , , ,

About 840 hours ago I was contacted via Twitter by the DMACC (Des Moines Area Community College) Social Media Guru/Web Master/Informator General, Tonya Wheeler asking if I would be interested in coming out to the Iowa Culinary Institute student run Bistro for lunch and a little talk.  I jumped at the chance to check out the place which has turned out many of the cooks and chefs that I have shared the line with.  Oh, and I really like lunch.  December third was the date that they gave me, a long time away for such an impatient Cook.

Fast forward to 266 hours ago…I was attending the Central Iowa Bloggers group in their new experimental downtown location (the traditional Clive location is very hard for me to get to from my home base, so this is unfortunately my first visit to the group) and met up with Social Medialite Claire Celsi, who was also invited to attend lunch that day.  You get the picture so far?

  1. Received Invitation
  2. Accepted Invitation
  3. Waited for date
  4. Met Claire Celsi on the day of the Lunch
  5. Headed toward Ankeny

Here’s the deal, and many of you probably missed this story when told back in the day:  I never went to Culinary School.  GASP!  A chef with no formal training?  Oh, trust me, I got some training…working with some great cooks and chefs, soaking up as much of the ocean of information as possible, being put to the test every day on the line getting burned, sliced, screamed at, and sometimes patted on the back.  Most of the techniques and concepts I have learned I taught myself through reading books and convincing my bosses it was a good thing to try out.  I missed out on the clinical aspect of a proper Culinary program and would have gladly worked side by side with aspiring chefs, in fact I would like to return as a guest instructor for a course entitled “How To Keep From Losing Your Shit On A High Volume Line” or something like that.

Back to our lunch…

264 hours ago Claire and I met up with Tonya in Building 7 which was writhe with students in Chef’s Whites.  It was the last day of the semester…and it showed kinda like kicking an ant hill.  We sat, ordered, and talked about the school, the culinary program, and of course, social media.  I for one was not only interested in getting my dirty little mitts on some of the equipment in the kitchens, but also in the school’s use of Twitter and the interdork.  There are so many opportunities to communicate with the students and the general population of the area when you use SM, and it has been the foundation for heightened success of many businesses and programs.  Tonya has been the sole tweeter and the driving force behind their website and blogging, it boggles my tiny cook’s mind thinking of the thousands of conversations that could be potentially had by this one woman.  First course…Cream of Mushroom soup.  It was decent.  I WAS informed by our server (also a culinary program student) that today’s Bistro menu was “cleaning out the walk-ins specials” due to it being the last day of the semester.  He claimed it was the worst day to come for lunch, but I disagree.  I did take this situation in account when judging the food-stuffs and the soup tasted like it could have used a stronger mushroom flavor and the roux used to thicken the soup could have been cooked a little longer, lending a nice full dark flavor to the mushroom end of things, but what the hey…it was still good.  More talk of the Culinary program, I was waiting for the right moment to pop the “can I have a tour” question.  Second course, the ICI take on Chicken and Waffles (a dish which has been named one of 2011’s hot dishes along with another iconic dish, Chorizo and Eggs.  What’s up for 2012? Beef Wellington? Tacos?) Confit of Chicken Leg with Sage Waffle.  If you haven’t experienced the lovely, lush, deep flavors of a good Duck or Chicken Confit you are cheating yourself.  A luscious confit chicken leg with crispy skin, perfectly saged waffles, and a little side of maple syrup with a perfectly over-easy egg to top it off.  F-yes.  Best thing I have eaten outside of the Cafe in a while.  It was so good I needed another to share with the boys at the Cafe, and Tonya was so kind as to make a to-go order happen. (Side story:  Upon arriving at Cafe Di Scala I was trying to wedge my way into a conversation with Chef Phil Shires and local produce/pork man Larry Cleverly when Cafe owner Tony Lemmo spied the to-go box.  He slinked around the two conversators and asked what was in the box.  I opened it.  He responded “Has Phil seen this yet?” No, no he hasn’t.  Tony snatched up the box and ran inside to tear it up.  I think Phil may have gotten a few bites.  It was that good).  I think my two dining partners had Vegetable Lasagne and some kind of steak thing, but my dish erased any real information about their meals.

After lunch I was granted my wish, a tour of the ICI facilities led by Executive Director Robert Anderson, the man who has mentored hundreds of aspiring culinarians.  It was an honor to have Chef Anderson take time out of a meeting to guide us through the kitchens and classrooms, which were buzzing with students preparing for a special dinner that evening and others cleaning up after their last Bistro session of the semester.  It was great to see so many young women and men hungry for feeding people.  I wish them all the best in the endeavors, it’s not an easy business…kind of like joining the Infantry.

I had a great time and great conversation with Tonya and Claire, and we will wrap this up in tomorrow’s post.  I have to go to work and cook.

The Bistro is on break until the first week of February, 2011, when they will return to full lunch service and will resume serving their special themed dinners February 8.  Visit the Iowa Culinary Institute site for reservations and updates.

Stay tuned for part two of “Getting the DMACC daddy treatment”

The Cook


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