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NAIT’s Culinary Department turns college meals into a 5-course fine dining experience for students 

a plate of fancy mac n cheese

By Angela Kazmierczak

NAIT’s Culinary department specially curated a menu for students at a College Pairing event this March 30th at Ernest’s Dining Room. Culinary students were tasked with making their most-dotted college foods into a nouvelle experience. Each course was paired with a beer from SYC Brewing, a local craft brewery, who sponsored the event. 

Seeing college meals often range from burgers to ramen, culinary students considered how to complement courses and round out a menu. Rylan Krause, the executive chef, asked the young chefs: “What are the flavour combinations, what’s the structure of these dishes and how do we make them fit? Instead of making ramen, how do we remind you of those flavours associated with ramen while keeping it fine dining?” 

Pork Belly “Ramen” served at the College Pairings event. The dish consists of “braised pork belly, baby bok choy, kabocha squash purée, pork broth gel, green onion powder, corn fritter and a 62 degrees Celsius egg.” THE NUGGET / Angela Kazmierczak

For $10, NAIT students indulged in elevated “college meals” with a number of flavours and courses, from beet and parmesan bread; amuse bouche, a bite-sized hor d’œuvre which translates to “mouth amuser” in French; mac n’ cheese croquettes; beef short rib taco salad; calamansi slush as a palette cleanser; pork belly “ramen;” and a sweeter version of “burger and fries” for dessert.

The night ended with surprise after the burgers, fries and milkshakes were set before students on long white plates. As explained by NAIT’s Head Pastry Chef, Enrico Caparas, “The goal of a pastry chef is to provide the guest an experience, not with just flavours and textures but the whole package of visual stimulation. The more senses you can stimulate, the more memorable, the more exciting.”

“Dessert is the last thing and it is usually the meal most guests remember. We want guests to remember it. It should not only look good, but it should taste good,” he said.

Again, not the typical kind of afters were served, as the burgers and fries took a turn for sweet. The burger consisted of chocolate sponge cake for burger buns, white chocolate for lettuce, fresh mango infused in beet juice for tomatoes, kiwis for pickles and chocolate mousse dipped in crunchy, chocolate-coated cornflakes for a burger patty. Then, sugar-coated churros, dipped in a chocolatey condiment, for fries. 

Andres Tangarife, NAITSA event coordinator, said, “They approached the meals in a creative way. They are the same foods you normally taste, but in a better way. It [the event] is also a way to gather, meet new people…To have these interactions—you don’t normally get to do this.”

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