Inside look at the Bistro reopening

Chef John Andres giving a tour of the Bistro facilities. Photo by Bella McDonald.

The Iowa Culinary Institute’s Bistro re-opened its doors to the public on Sept. 23. 

Located right across from the pond, the Bistro can be found in Building 7 on the Ankeny DMACC campus. The culinary students, serving as cooks and waiters, are professional and upbeat. The waiters solidify the gourmet experience, making it feel like one is truly at an upscale restaurant. Back in the kitchen, the students are hard at work, cooking up appetizers, dishes, sides, desserts, and an array of buffet items. 

However, it hasn’t been like this for very long. In March, their in-person program was shut down just like everyone else’s. On top of the normal difficulties of virtual classes, the culinary students were still expected to prepare food as a part of their studies. Chef John Andres, the Director of the Iowa Culinary Institute at DMACC, and the faculty at ICI were innovative in this process, making sure that students could cook from home by providing ingredient kits that were available for pickup. 

After years in the industry, Chef Andres said, “I’ve never seen anything like [the pandemic] before.” The situation may be different, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it is entirely negative. Chef Andres has a positive perspective, saying, “It allows us to have a renewed focus on sanitation, which is vital in culinary arts.” 

The re-opening of the bistro was preceded by weeks of careful planning. The custodial staff walked through each step of the dining process, plotting out how social distancing would best be enacted during a customer’s dining experience. 

The students wear a mask at all times, along with guests when walking in, around, and out of the building. With the continued support of DMACC’s President Rob Denson, Chef Andres made the decision to then open up the Bistro to the public. 

“President Denson understands that the Bistro is the public face of the program. Without it, the students wouldn’t be able to cook for the public and get that experience,” Andres said. 

As a guest, you get the whole gourmet dining experience. The courses are prepared on fine white plates and served with garnishes that are appropriate for each dish. The atmosphere is warm and inviting, with natural light streaming in through the large glass windows. Around the dining area, the walls are decorated with delightful paintings. Each week, the menu is different, giving the students the opportunity to cook and prepare a wide variety of foods throughout their learning experience. 

Caesar salad, one of a variety of appetizer options during the gourmet meal experience. Photo by Bella McDonald.

Although sanitation measures are in effect, some will still be skeptical of dining-in. Chef Andres and the rest of the faculty and staff make it clear that safety is the highest priority. For those who do not wish to dine-in, there are to-go options available from the daily buffet. 

For those who wish to experience the Bistro, reservations can be made by emailing or leaving a voice message at (515) 964-6369. In accordance with current DMACC policy, all guests will need to wear a mask at all times unless they are eating. 


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