DMACC offers gourmet dinners

Avis AllenBy Avis Allen.

In Building 7, the Lakeview room, magic happens.

Usually it happens on Thursday evenings, but due to increased student enrollment the magic is being offered on Saturday evenings.  Reservations are required and limited for each dinner, so hurry and call Denise Moore at 515-964-6655 or email These are not always for the average college student, as the dinners are $90 per person ($25 is tax-deductible).  Eighty to one hundred people may attend a dinner.

There are nine dinners this term, with four themes which include; Italian, Indian, Puerto Rican, and Modern Scandinavian.  All of the dinners begin with a champagne or sparkling wine reception at 6:30 p.m. Followed by dinner seating at 7 p.m.  For each dinner there are six to eight courses that are served.

The casual dining in the Bistro will turn into elegance and precision of Gourmet dining in just a few short hours for the dining room.  Students take Sanitation and Equipment lab to receive experience in an elegant atmosphere.  At 4 p.m., students arrive in street clothes to set up.  Tables are all aligned; white linen is laid the same way on each table. Students do this under Executive Chef Robert Anderson (Program Chair), Executive Chef Phil Carey, and Chef Chris Prine’s watchful eyes.  Sometimes everything goes effortlessly, but there are times that there are incidents, the main thing to remember is that the guest will think this all goes smoothly and effortlessly.

At 6 p.m., the front of the house students get a dinner, nothing as nice as the gourmet dinner, but filling just the same.  Students change out of their street clothes into professional looking attire with ICI ties and wait to greet our guests.  The noise in the dining room goes from a busy hum to a quiet hush, as the lights dim.

As the guests are greeted at the door by Cindi Barton, the aromas from the kitchen dance into the lobby to tempt everyone with anticipation of what is to come.  The champagne starts to flow as the appetizers are presented to the guests.  Failure is not an option at Iowa Culinary Institute’s Gourmet Dinners.  All of the Chefs have put in many hours, hard work, understanding, listening skills, and patience of saints to teach us what we need to know to prepare and serve these dinners to the best of our abilities.

While guests are being seated, music is being played by Aaron Powell, the DMACC music director, and Anne Stein, flutist.  The scent of spices and meat cooking linger in the kitchen, where many chefs have been for thirty hours, preparing the dinner from beginning to end.

Chef Karla Boetel and Chef Mike Dell, our two new International Cuisine Executive Chefs, have been working on arranging and planning the dinner themes and dates.  Experience the best gourmet recipes sampled on the plates in front of you, from the exotic flavors of Indian cuisine, Italy’s savory ingredients, the island cooking from Puerto Rico, and the essence of popular Modern Scandinavian cuisine.

With the help of extra eyes and hands from Sous Chef Rolando Molina and dessert expertise from Chef Julie Drew, the dinner will be a success.  There are one to two student managers per dinner to help plan and execute menu items.

The students learn International Cuisine during their second year.  This lab class will teach the students to enjoy differences of flavors from around the world.  With the Chefs close by, the students test the menu and make any adjustments that are needed.

It also teaches the students what it is like to cook in a large group and how to plate their food.  Plating is one of the important steps of cooking.  We always eat with our eyes first, so the plates must make you want to ooh and ahh, be so pretty that you don’t want to mess it up by taking a bite, while making your mouth water as you know you want to taste it to see if it is as good as it looks.

Once the plate is completed and garnished, the servers pick up the plates and move out the door, until the number of plates required for the table is ready.  The servers walk single file to the table where one of the front of the house chefs are waiting.  In unison the servers set the plates down in front of all of the guests at that table.  There are a few servers that do not set the tables and their job is to pour wine or make sure that all guests have the appropriate silverware for each course.  The servers aren’t supposed to talk to the guests, unless the guest speaks first.  After all courses have been served and the delectable dessert is on the way, coffee or tea is served.

In between the courses, there is a speaker or two.  French Professor Maura Nelson explains the French Chef Exchange and Dean Jim Stick explains the wine pairings.  All servers are lined up and introduced by name and place of graduation.  The front of the house Chefs and the musicians are introduced.  Then all back of the house chefs and student chefs file out of the kitchen in single file to be introduced.

The night brings a lot of laughter, friendship, satisfied-beyond-reason palates, and many compliments to Iowa Culinary Institute at Des Moines Area Community College.  Extreme recognition to ALL of the chefs and students is also brought.  Without the generosity of hungry patrons, eight worthy students would not be experiencing France in the spring.


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