Grossmont College’s Culinary Arts Dinner program is a five-star dining experience

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If you are looking for a five-star dining experience at a low cost, look no further than Grossmont College’s Culinary Arts. Its Culinary Art Program Dinner is just that and more. Completely cooked by students in the program, the dinner is orchestrated with perfection from the service as you come into the dining area to the remarkable gourmet recipes that don the dinner table with exquisite beauty that shows the care in preparation and skill levels of these chefs in training.

If you are looking for a five-star dining experience at a low cost, look no further than Grossmont College’s Culinary Arts. Its Culinary Art Program Dinner is just that and more. Completely cooked by students in the program, the dinner is orchestrated with perfection from the service as you come into the dining area to the remarkable gourmet recipes that don the dinner table with exquisite beauty that shows the care in preparation and skill levels of these chefs in training.

Its fall menu is a delightful mixture of courses, each one preparing you for what comes next. Pairing is perfect, presentation is beautiful and the quality of this gourmet dinner is comparative to any high dining around.

Beginning with the Blue Cheese Soufflé, enjoyably light was paired with mixed greens, pickled red onions, candied walnuts and Golden Balsamic Vinaigrette. With the light drizzle of dressing, the addition of Black Mission Figs, the contrast of the tasty sweet greens and the blue cheese was remarkable. Bringing in the freshly baked French and whole wheat honey rolls made this much more than a starter salad. It immediately engaged you for what was coming next, spiced cream of cauliflower soup with curry brown butter and thyme gougeres. This was a creamy soup, full of flavor and not too rich.

For the entree, the cooks prepared Pan-Seared Airline Chicken Breast atop an assortment of Carolina grits, crispy Brussels sprouts, bacon lardons, apple mostarda and bourbon jus. The chicken was seared to a crispy golden brown, yet still moist and tender. The combination of the bacon, sprouts, apples and bourbon jus atop creamy Carolina grits ensured a diversity of flavors in every bite. Once again, the pairing of these ingredients made this dish superlative.

For dessert, the cooks designed a beautiful display with Yuzu White Chocolate Panna Cotta served with green apple sorbet, salted almond crumb and huckleberry sauce. Creamy, cool and soothing textures made this seemingly rich dessert a light delight.

From the moment we were invited into the dining area, the staff was attentive, but not obtrusive, allowing us to sit down and enjoy a wonderfully prepared meal while still being able to have good conversation without disrupt. It made for a wonderful dining experience and left you lacking for nothing and was ideal in proportion. After such a charming meal, the staff left you with a box of goodies to take with you. A Guinness Brownie, Almond Shortbread, Sea Salt Cocoa Nib Caramel and a Raspberry Rose French Macaron. Overall this meal, while including the nice atmosphere of friendly chatting throughout the dining area attends to all of your five senses, generating more than a meal by creating an event that you will want to attend more than once.

The staff for the night was impeccably professional, helpful courteous. The only thing that they asked of any of us was to fill out the back of the menu with our thoughts on the dinner, the presentation, the service and the experience. And this is a culinary experience that is worthy, enjoyable and comes at an insanely low price for what you get in return.

Instructor James Foran, Culinary arts program coordinator, specializing in baking and pastry classes said they feel that it is a leading culinary school in San Diego right now and have been building it over the course of years. There are also plans to take the program even further.

“We offer full degree programs, associates for culinary arts and/or pastry arts. Students can also come here for individual classes or certificate programs,” he said.

Instructor JoJo Rossi said the program started in 1996 and was popular from the get-go and has increased in popularity through the years.

“We have worked really hard to make it relevant to the workforce today,” she said. “In addition to it being a bonafide culinary school, we are really giving people the opportunity to hone their skills and take it out into the workforce and to get jobs line cooking. An entry level position filling the skills gap in this city with cooks.”

Rossi said there is a great need for cooks and when they get through its program they feel that they have given them so much to prepare them to get the jobs and to be successful in the restaurants that they are working in.

Culinary Arts Program Dinners are every Thursday night during the semester with many coinciding with the theatre, especially opening night.

“It is open to the public,” she said. “It tends to sell out quickly, mainly due to word of mouth and affiliation with Grossmont College that have been coming here year after year. We do have plans to expand our dining area in the future so we can seat more. We have a class of 25 to 30 students, so half of them are working the front of the house and half of them are working in the back of the class cooking, so we have plenty of students to serve more guest. It’s just a matter of space.”

Rossi said the students prepare everything for the dinner so they are there as overseers. “They help us with menu development. We take a lot of time to work through recipes and tweak them. We tweak recipes as we make them because there are a lot of different variables,” she said.

Foran said baking takes place in the morning, the desserts, the breads and some of the prep that takes a little bit longer. We do have carry over. Some of the students in my class are in the evening class as well. Then it takes over into the evening and they work on the proteins, the sauces and the rest.

“We do an analysis after every dinner service,” said Rossi. “We sit down and have a meal together that one of the students has prepared and we do a SWOT analysis. We take a look at our strengths, our weaknesses, our opportunities and threats of every dinner service so that we can get better every week and grow.”

The Culinary Arts Program Dinner is $25 and you can get a theatre package for $37. To get tickets contact Grossmont College’s Stagehouse Theatre Box office at (6190 644-7234. It only takes dinner and theatre package purchases by phone.