Friday, May 14, 2010

Family-style food school

CSI of Blaine County graduates first class in culinary arts program

Express Staff Writer

Lydia Ross Fuller shows off artichoke hearts stuffed with Boursin cheese. Photo by Willy Cook

Three potential new restaurateurs were developed when an inaugural class of cooks completed College of Southern Idaho's first full-year Culinary Arts Program in Blaine County on Saturday.

Beginning last fall, three students joined instructors Sue and Brian Ahern, owners for 13 years of the Full Moon restaurant in Bellevue, for a thorough study of a restaurateur's world. The classical culinary program, which has been in effect in Twin Falls for 20 years, is designed to give students the tools they need in their quest to fry and flambé on par with the best chefs anywhere in the world.

At their restaurant, the de facto kitchen and classroom for the first-year CSI Blaine County program, the Ahern couple offered two semesters of cooking lessons, in addition to coursework in sanitation and menu management and development—a full program they hope to repeat and expand to about 10 students next fall.

The first students were Lizbeth Rodriguez, Lydia Fuller and Jess Grubbs. The program was offered through CSI and supported by an Idaho Department of Labor WIRED grant awarded just prior to the start of the 2009 fall semester.

"They are some of the most awesome people I have ever met and worked under," Grubbs said. "They are so patient with you and willing to teach you anything about food and service. They made us feel like we were a family rather than just teachers and students."

The students used their yearlong education to plan a five-course meal Saturday, May 8, at which guests sampled each of 13 dishes on the menu. Guests included two children, who also cleaned their plates, said Gayle Kerr, one of the guests invited to the first-year final exam.

"Even though the food and presentation were formal, the dining experience was informal," Kerr said. "I had never seen (the students) as a group before. Not only did they do a good job, but it was a relaxed meal. The Kobe beef was excellent. I hope more students in the valley get to learn what they have learned."

Kerr said she really enjoyed the dessert, possibly her favorite part of any meal, which included a fresh fruit tart and profiteroles with homemade mocha ice cream and chocolate sauce.

The menu, gleaned from the students' two-and-a-half-inch-thick textbook titled "On Cooking," was the culmination of training in how to plan, budget and prepare meals for a restaurant, said Sue Ahern.

"I will be using that book forever," Grubbs said, adding that part of the success of the program for her was everyone's lighthearted flair working together in the kitchen.

Study included such topics as nutrition, professionalism, knife skills and how to prepare stocks, soups, sauces, dairy, beef, poultry and, of course, vegetables. Grubbs said in addition to learning about eggs and breakfast, pasta grains and potatoes, quick and yeast breads, and cake frosting, she enjoyed learning how to make pate brisee for pies or quiche and pate sucree, a sweet dough for sweet tarts.

As part of their education, the students each presented a plan for a restaurant they might start someday. They including a Mexican restaurant, a teahouse and a coffee and bakeshop.

"They had to come up with a menu, write recipes and cost out recipes to determine menu prices, and then they had to design a kitchen," Sue Ahern said. "I would love to go to the ones that they designed. They are all really fun."

The students also took some field trips during the school year, including trips to the CISCO food show and the company's warehouse in Boise. They also toured the kitchens of Sun Valley Co. and Big Wood Bread.

"They all did so well," Ahern said in an interview during a break from planning for her summer catering business. "I am so proud of them. They were such great students. I am really excited for them moving on in their careers.

"I really hope the program continues because it was a great experience for us this year."

Ahern said prospective 2011 students can call her for more information at 309-0503 or they can call the Blaine County Campus of CSI at 788-2033.

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