Really Cooking: Educations in Epicure
September 20, 2006
By Adrienne Newlon
Culinary curriculums feed hungry minds
Cooking is an ancient, mysterious practice - confounding to some, natural for others. Billings, Missoula, Whitefish and Bozeman and all towns in between have burgeoning food scenes with eclectic, upscale bistros, and wine bars that rival their big-city counterparts. There are talented chefs coming to Montana from other states, and coming up from its own kitchens, and raising the bar of culinary appreciation. It's all resulting in an increased appreciation of the culinary arts - and Montanans are stepping up to the table at several culinary programs around the state.
The state has culinary programs for the at-home, would-be chef, and for those who seek to take their skills to the professional level. That's perhaps a reflection of predictions that the viability of culinary careers is increasing. Money magazine has reported that professional chefs command salaries between $35,000, and $100,000, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts that by 2005 the demand for chefs in the U.S. will exceed the supply.
Montana has a full range of opportunities for culinary learning, from college based Culinary Arts and Food Service programs, to individual classes in restaurants, bed and breakfasts, food stores and cookware outlets. The full college programs take the students through basics such as knife skills and sanitation, to specialized techniques like mother sauces and fine pastry work. Those interested in getting in on the restaurant scene here are enrolling in programs either as first-time students or as older, returning students interested in a career change. Individual classes are a great way to either get your feet wet or to improve upon your existing talents.
Here is a look at some of Montana's culinary education possibilities.
The University of Montana College of Technology, Missoula
The University of Montana Culinary Arts Food Service Management program is two-fold. Students can take Culinary Arts as a free-standing certificate program, or continue on with Food Service Management to earn a full Associate of Applied Science degree. In the Culinary Arts program, students learn management procedures and get practical experience in food stations like "garde manger," soups and stocks, meats and vegetables. (The garde manger is the person who is responsible for making things
pretty, working primarily with cold foods - salads, appetizers, h'ors d'oeuvres - sometimes known as the pantry cook.)
They also learn short-order cooking through classroom lectures and hands-on practical experience in the UM cafeteria. After completing the Culinary Arts program, students are equipped to work in professional kitchens, but if they have aspirations of being in management or ownership of a restaurant, continuing with the Food Service Management completes the circle of knowledge necessary to tackle the successful operation of a restaurant or catering business. In Food Service Management, students continue to build on their food-preparation skills while incorporating technical information such as portioning, food-service accounting, purchasing, and beverage management.
The UM cafeteria kitchen provides a large, well-equipped environment, where students work in various stations preparing rich sauces, baking desserts, precisely chopping vegetables, or flipping burgers. They get it all. The sophisticated, and the mundane - a cache of skill they will fall back on for their entire careers in food.
Contact Thomas Campbell at 243-7831 for more information.
The Flathead Valley Community College
Flathead Valley Community College (FVCC), in Kalispell, is growing their Professional Chef/Hospitality Management Program to meet the mushrooming demand for qualified chefs in the Flathead. Similar to the U of M, the program is split in two, starting with a certified Professional Chef program, and continuing with Hospitality Management to complete the AAS degree.
Where the FVCC program differs from UM is in presenting a broad spectrum education in hospitality. The first year of the FVCC program brings in travel and touring management and hospitality law to augment the chef program. The second year covers more business-oriented subjects, as convention management, human relations, destination geography, and business math and communications. Combining these types of subjects with the Professional Chef certification is influenced by the fact that FVCC serves an area largely dependent on the hotel/resort industry.
The Professional Chef Program currently leases a local restaurant kitchen for the practical application of culinary arts skills, in addition to which, students work in the community restaurants as interns. The combination gives students focused faculty attention in the "school" kitchen, and the mentorship of experienced restaurateurs and chefs as they learn food stations in real-world kitchens.
FVCC is close to realizing plans to build a professional education kitchen on campus. The FVCC Foundation, in collaboration with five top Flathead area chefs, the Professional Chef Program faculty and FVCC alumni chefs puts on an annual six day wine and food event to raise funds to facilitate the progress of the chef/hospitality program to accommodate more students, and offer a state-of-the-art environment for them to learn in.
In keeping with the elevation of the cooking facilities, FVCC has brought Chef Andy Blanton, of Cafe Kandahar on Big Mountain, on staff to instruct the culinary arts portion of the program. The influence of Blanton, a rising star in the Flathead food scene, promises a vibrant and inspiring example for students to follow.
Call 756-3822 or visit www.fvcc.edu for more details.
Bridger Kulinary Centre
The Bridger Kulinary Centre in Bozeman is a state of the art facility that takes a broad-based approach to the culinary arts.
The center includes a showroom that features high-quality kitchen equipment, a well-designed event center, and a cutting edge teaching kitchen that gives participants the experience of cooking in a professional environment, with high-quality equipment and ingredients.
The individual workshops educate novice and experienced cooks in a wide variety of subjects ranging from Montana wild game preparation to wine tasting, sushi to soups. Local and out-of-state guest chefs are brought in each week of the month to give two- to three-hour sessions where participants receive demonstrations, hands-on practice, and recipes. Instructors explain techniques, food-chemistry and origins of preparation methods. The atmosphere is relaxed and cozy, where veteran chefs can entertain participants with work-related anecdotes. The groups are small, for optimal attention from instructors.
Go to www.bridgerkitchens.com or call 582-1101 for class schedules.
La Provence, under chef and owner Marc Guizol, has rapidly acquired a fine reputation for regional French cuisine. Chef Marc is an award-winning, well-educated gourmand who offers three cooking programs:
Fall through spring (except December), Guizol holds classes twice a month in the teaching kitchen at La Provence. Each class is two hours and features regional or fusion cuisines of Spain, France, Asia and Italy. Guizol prepares for demonstration four or five courses, which attendees get to taste as each course is complete.
In nearby Whitefish, at the Jeff Gilman Fine Woodworking showroom, Guizol developed a program where he and other local chefs of note do demonstration classes in Gilman's impressive display kitchen. At Gilman's facilities, the courses are paired with wine by local wine distributors. Classes are held approximately once a month.
The most recent and innovative addition to La Provence's culinary education options is in-home cooking classes. Groups of eight or more can have Guizol come to a private home and cook in a similar format as the La Provence restaurant classes. Because of the more intimate, home atmosphere, attendees can participate in helping Guizol prepare the courses.
In any of these classes, the affable Guizol provides take-home recipes and gives a lot of professional tips.
For information: Call 837-2923 to sign up for classes.
The Barrister Bed and Breakfast
Located in the heart of Helena, this late 1800s Victorian bed and breakfast offers more than just a place to stay.
Owner and chef Jacquie Bennet teaches cooking for parties of 10 or less on an advanced request basis. Jacquie was born and raised in Montana, and developed her culinary talents over a number of years, while cooking on various Montana ranches. She does anything from down-home to up-town, and is willing to customize classes according to the needs of a given group - offering a combination of demonstration and hands-on learning.
For information: call The Barrister at 443-7330.