August 10, 2011

Behind the Scenes at The Class Act

Yesterday I wrote about our dining experiences at The Class Act Restaurant, located in the Hotel at Kirkwood Center.   The meals we had there were exceptional, but we got an additional treat after breakfast:  a chance to look behind the scenes.

First we toured the Class Act's kitchens.   We started with the line kitchen, which is where meals are prepared for serving by Kirkwood's Culinary Arts students.  We also saw the main or prep kitchen, where the ingredients are prepared - also by students - and some other areas used for catering and so forth. 

All of the facilities were neat, clean and very well-stocked with high-quality, state-of-the-art equipment.   We were told that most of the storage was in the basement of the building, but in the prep kitchen we did see a wide array of quality ingredients of the sort that would be used in everyday cooking.  This included a wide array of spices, many from the Frontier Natural Products Co-Op.  We were told that Frontier (another Iowa business) donates the spices. 

Next we got to check out the classrooms, where the Hospitality Arts students learn the tricks of their trades.  Kirkwood's Hospitality Arts program offers degrees in Hotel Management and Restaurant Management, but we focused on the facilities used by the Culinary Arts and Baking students.  Everything was well-organized and state-of-the-art.   The cooking labs featured a station from which the instructor could monitor what each student was doing via cameras, while the student work stations also featured monitor screens to facilitate communication between the instructor and the students. 

One of the more unusual and impressive things we saw was an auditorium set up for cooking instruction and demonstrations.  Multiple view screens were placed to allow students sitting anywhere in the auditorium to clearly see what an instructor or lecturer was doing.   We were told that guest chefs, including some international ones, have come to teach the Kirkwood culinary students about different sorts of cuisines and cooking techniques.   Some of these lectures and demonstrations are broadcast on Kirkwood's TV station. 

All in all our tour was pretty interesting.   I've seen some other culinary arts facilities, but I've never seen one quite as impressive as what we saw on this tour.   It was clear that Kirkwood's program is well-equipped with everything an aspiring chef or master baker might need to learn, and the quality of the program instructors and the real-world experience provided at the restaurant was evident in the great food served in The Class Act.

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