Wednesday, May 7, 2008

A Taste of College

The main reason we took the kids to Chicago this past weekend was to visit a world renowned culinary school. It gave them a taste of college life and exposed them to college of a different kind. While they certainly enjoyed it, this pastry chef wanna-be was in heaven. I LOVE to cook, and by the end of our workshop and tour I was ready to move to Chicago and plunk down $80,000 for a four year degree in culinary arts. And I needed a Tums because there were more samples than a Sam’s Wholesale Club on a Saturday afternoon.

Chicago is one of the food capitols of the world, and Kendall College sits smack dab in the middle of some of the best restaurants in the nation.

It’s also close to a chocolate factory, so you can smell warm chocolate no matter which direction you turn. That helps to cover up the smell of Lake Michigan. I love that smell. The chocolate, not Lake Michigan. Graduates from the college usually have well paying job offers by the time they are JUNIORS. They spend their summers doing internships in exciting places like Paris, and they end up working in major cities and ski resorts. The program is tough. It’s not for wimps. There are many labs, long hours and shifts in the college restaurant. And with so much to see and do in Chicago, they probably don’t get much sleep between the studying and the partying. If I were starting all over again, I’d skip that whole journalism thing and head to Shy-town to learn how to make fancy cakes. Apparently, I’m not alone in that feeling because many of their students are adults who have a degree of one kind or another but are drawn to work with something they truly love….food.

Our tour included a workshop where we learned how to discern fine chocolate from Hershey’s kisses, and let me just say that now that I know what I’ve been missing, my next husband will be a $6 chocolate bar. We visited their labs, where I so wanted to jump in and bake something.

These guys were experimenting with leftovers to make all kinds of appetizers, and boy, were they good!

We tried stuff with cheese, stuff with meats and this stuff with roasted vegetables.

The only bad thing I can say about it is that they made me share with the other boys and girls. And you should have smelled the stuff that was in the ovens. There was some of this.

And some of these.
And the bread! Great googly moogly, you should have seen all of the warm bread. There were racks and racks of warm yeast and flour concoctions just waiting to be slathered in butter or dragged through olive oil. Is there a twelve step program for a bread addiction? I hope not. And speaking of butter, they use a ton of it here…in the pastry kitchen.

Paula Deen’s got nothin’ on these folks when it comes to butter. look at that big hunk of butter the guy on the left is using. And check out those cakes just waiting to be layered with some gooey ganache. It was at this point that I considered asking if I could lick the bowls, but I didn’t. I didn’t want to look like some redneck who’d never been to a big city before. But if they had offered…..

I lust after fancy appliances and a well stocked pantry. This pantry positively made my toes tingle. Will ya’ look at all that sugar and flour?
I touched Viking stoves, rubbed giant mixers and drooled over the refrigerated drawers and the boiling water spigots on the stoves. (I have spigot envy, but don’t tell anyone.) Everywhere we turned, there was food. Walk through a lab? Oops! There’s some fresh seafood salad with shrimp and calamari. Would I like a sample? Is Hillary Clinton hippy? Of course, I want a sample. Walk around a corner? Oops! There’s an assortment of fruits and cheeses.

Would I care for a wedge? Sure, just snuggle up to mama with that Havarti and we’ll have a dairy good time. If we hadn’t been with teenagers I’d have asked for a glass of wine. They had plenty of that, too. I’d show you a picture of their school cafeteria, but I was so distracted by the gourmet menu I forgot to take one. They serve what the student chefs cook, three times a day. On the day we were there, they had prime rib for lunch. That’s a far cry from that green roast beef we had three times a week at my college. At Kendall they joke about the “Freshman 50” instead of the “Freshman 15” weight gain. Students come from all over the country to earn their degree there. Celebrity chefs visit for workshops. Bobby Flay taped a turkey “Throw Down” there last year. It was a fabulous, fascinating place. They even gave Hubby a little parting gift, which he couldn’t resist sneaking into before we left the building.


oreneta said...

Did you know that the head office of McDonalds is also in Chicago? Maybe that's where the ones who don't pass go.

Amy said...

Great post, Hula! You are funny...and cruel....Now I'm starving and want to go dip something in a big vat of butter!:)

I don't know if it's just me, but I could almost smell it....the chocolate, not Lake Michigan!:)