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Cuisine 1300 whets MCCC's appetites

By James P. Quick
On November 9, 2017

It’s the students who shine in Cuisine 1300.

Located for the last 35 years immediately to the right of the northwest entrance to the A Building, the little restaurant is a haven for good food on-campus – with all due respect to the Kosch cafeteria across the hall.

The restaurant is the domain of the second-year culinary students. The menu is an eclectic variety of mouth-watering treats ranging from a traditional Oysters Rockefeller to a richly-flavored Korean-style Burger.

All the dishes – appetizers, entrees, sides, and desserts – have been chosen for the menu by the students. Each dish is their own recipe. Aside from cooking and preparing the food, students also work in the capacity of servers in Cuisine 1300 itself.

Kevin Thomas is the executive chef and head instructor of MCCC’s culinary program. He’s been at the college for 31 years and can certainly explain how the restaurant benefits the students.

“What working in the restaurant does, more than anything, is that it prepares them for working in the field,” he says. “So, once they leave here, they have access to understanding both the front of the house and the back of the house in a restaurant.”

A state-of-the-art point-of-sale system on iPads is used to take orders at the table. In the back, the students are hard at work getting experience in fine dining and à la carte food preparation.

While price points are in the neighborhood of Applebee’s and Chili’s – none of the entrees are over $12 – yet the taste outranks either.

“We call ourselves kind of an American bistro,” Thomas says. “We try to do contemporary foods with a modern flair and decorative presentations.”

Portions are done in such a way so as to look attractive when plated.

“As we’re trying to teach them the whole art of the culinary world,” says Thomas, “and plate presentation is the canvas that the artist gets to work on.

“So we always show the students how to properly decorate and set up the plates so that the food looks like a photograph when it gets to the table.”

The portions are certainly camera-ready, looking like a menu picture – though 1300’s menu has no photographs of its dishes.

In the 31 years Thomas has been at the college, the restaurant has changed the most in terms of what most diners do not see. Much like the iPad-based point-of-sales system, the students enjoy the use of modern appliances and implements in the kitchen space.

“The college has been gracious enough to supply us with phenomenal equipment,” says the chef. “Having access to some really fine-quality ingredients, as well; the college has been really great about that, too.

“We’re lucky to get the products in that we use from different available sources that are not commonly-used in a lot of restaurants.”

The students use these products to great effect. The quality of the food crafted in the kitchen cannot be overstated.

A specialty grower The Chef’s Garden out of Huron, Ohio provides fresh micro-greens, baby vegetables, and other goodies to the program.

“We’re looking into the possibility of working with the agricultural development that’s going on here at the college,” Thomas says. “We’re actually talking about having a small garden that the students could operate where we could grow fresh herbs, maybe some seasonal vegetables, things like that.”

Students in agricultural and other science courses would probably be able to work in the garden as well, Thomas notes. However, things are still very tentative in that regard.

Only one thing is grown on campus – grapes in the campus’s vineyard for some of the students’ training in regard to the art of wine-making. Some discussion has been undertaken about perhaps having a wine-making program, but nothing has come of it yet due to prohibitive costs.

The students speak highly of the program and how it allows them flex their creative muscles.

“The first year definitely had a more hands-on aspect to it,” says Skyler Dieselberg. “Learning the basics; everything you need to know about cooking, from your basic sauces to actually just being in a kitchen environment.

“The second year is definitely more of the chef aspect, which I really enjoy. It really allows me to flow creatively and to put what I know to use. I can experiment with that and develop my personal skills as a chef.”

“I like how you can be creative and do what your mind tells you,” says Molly Taylor. “You can be free to do what you feel. You get to create your own menu, create your own recipes, interact with people and see them eat your food.

“It’s always awesome and it gives you experience.”

Fellow students Nathan Trumbull and Talia Ogle both say much the same.

“I just think the most important thing,” Thomas says, “is the importance of what the students get from a program like this with all that hands-on experience. A lot of schools don’t offer as much as what we offer here.”

Cuisine 1300 takes payment in cash or personal checks – no credit cards will be accepted.

Seating occurs on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday between 11:30 AM and 11:45 AM. Reservations must be made; call 1-734-384-4231 between 9 AM and 4 PM, Monday through Friday.

Reservations go until Dec. 6, 2017, after which the restaurant is closed.

To the side can be found this semester’s menu for Cuisine 1300, including prices, menu descriptions, and whose dish is whose.

Bon Appetit!

James's more casual assessment of Cuisine 1300's food can be read here.

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