By Jaweed Kaleem with Rochelle Koff
Just because your wallet is thin empty doesn't mean your belly has to be. At chef schools around South Florida, you won't find the typical college cafeteria -- in most cases, they look and feel like real restaurants -- and even better, they want to feed you. Plus, the price is a deal given the quality and quantity of the food.
At the monthly Wolfson's Kitchen series at Miami-Dade College's downtown campus, you can listen to a chef-instructor talk about her craft and then dig into a two-course lunch prepared by her students for just $10. Hospitality students at Florida International University in North Miami cook and serve a weekly three-course lunch -- complete with white tableclothes, candles and sangria -- for $15. The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale's Chef's Palette has lunch and dinner service and an upscale menu with entrees like New York strip steak that tops out at $15.
Tropibleu at Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts Miami in Miramar offers lunch and dinner with
sophisticated fare like poached salmon for under $16. The dining is least frequent but most elegant -- and expensive -- at North Miami's Johnson & Wales University. Still, it's a bargain for what you get. Each trimester, the school flies in a top-caliber chef to work and cook with students, concluding with a multicourse wine dinner that's open to the public for $85. The roster has included food-world stars like Marcus Samuelsson of New York's Acquavit. Next up: Stephen Stryjewski of New Orleans' Cochon, which landed the No. 3 spot on the New York Times' 2008 list of best new U.S. restaurants.
JOHNSON & WALES 'DISTINGUISHED VISITING CHEF' SERIES
Where: University Center, 1701 NE 127th St., North Miami.
When: Once a trimester; next dinner Nov. 7.
Information: 305-913-2108 or apps.jwu.edu/chefschoice/mia. Registration required.
Chef-co-owner Stephen Stryjewski of New Orleans' Cochon leads students in preparing a Cajun-inspired feast that begins with such appetizers as boudin sausage balls with pickled peppers. The four-course dinner with wine pairings includes hogs head cheese with mustard greens and fried peas, oyster and bacon stew with cracklin corn bread, pannéed (pounded and pan-fried) rabbit in sauce picante with popcorn rice and, for dessert, chocolate and chicory custard with cayenne-whipped cream.
FIU LUNCH SERIES
Where: School of Hospitality and Tourism Management dining room, Florida International University, 3000 NE 151st St., North Miami.
When: Noon-1:30 p.m. alternating Tuesdays and Thursdays through Nov. 20; next lunch is Oct. 28. (Series held each semester.)
Info: 305-919-4500. Reservation required.
Students work all aspects of this "restaurant," from table settings and menu planning to cooking and serving, supervised by chef-instructor Michael J. Moran. Last week's lunch began with ciabatta with Kalamata aioli and a Mediterranean salad. Entree choices were pan-roasted pork tenderloin with garlic-mashed potatoes and sautéed squash and peppers or roasted snapper fillet over couscous, asparagus and grape tomatoes. Sangria and water were poured, and a pear and raspberry trifle capped the meal.
TROPIBLEAU, LE CORDON BLEU MIAMI
Where: 3221 Enterprise Way, Miramar (off Miramar Parkway).
When: 11 a.m.-1 p.m. and 6:30-9:30 p.m. Tuesday-Friday.
Cost: Appetizers $4.95-$6.95, entrees $12.95-$15.95, desserts $4.95.
FYI: It's BYOB, with no corkage fee. Tips go to scholarship fund.
Students at the famed French cooking school's local branch spend six weeks honing their skills at this contemporary restaurant with white tablecloths and a view of the kitchen-classroom. Our meal started with a tasty amuse bouche of acaraje -- a black-eyed pea fritter in a zesty tomato sauce. Appetizers included a rich seafood dip, Caesar salad and seared ahi tuna. Crowd-pleasing entrees included pan-roasted chicken breast and our primo picks: duck a l'orange and grilled skirt steak plus a dessert of chocolate terrine. More good news: Dishes are trans-fat free.
CHEF'S PALETTE, ART INSTITUTE OF FORT LAUDERDALE
Where: 1650 SE 17th St., Fort Lauderdale (next to Walgreens).
When: 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Tuesday- Friday, 6-9:30 p.m. Thursday-Friday.
Cost: Starters $6-$10, entrees $12-$15, sandwiches $8-$10, desserts $5, beer $5-$6, wine $5 a glass, soft
drinks and coffee $2.50.
Info: 954-760-7957. Reservations suggested.
Cooks and servers at this 40-seat restaurant are students in AIFL's International Culinary School. Diners watch the kitchen action from a wall-sized window and order from a three-page menu, which changes often. At a recent lunch, appetizers included grilled watermelon squares with goat cheese and balsamic syrup, while salmon, chicken, steak and pasta provided an entree choice for every palate. Dessert options that day: orange chiffon, strawberry mousse, Charlotte russe and pear tart.
WOLFSON'S KITCHEN AT MIAMI-DADE COLLEGE
Where: Wolfson Campus, Room 1260, 300 NE Second Ave., Miami.
When: One-hour sessions monthly; exact schedule has not been set.
Info: 305-237-3267 or communityeducationatwolfson.com (click Wolfson's Kitchen). Registration is required (46-person maximum).
Chef-instructor Ketly Pierre supervises hospitality management students as they prepare and serve two-course meals in Wolfson's Kitchen, a former cafeteria converted into a kitchen-classroom. Pierre shares techniques, food safety and nutritional information with diners while her students do the cooking. The menu for the inaugural session last month was baked chicken over linguine with julienne-cut carrots and bell peppers. Dessert was cut fresh fruit, and water was the beverage du jour.
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Ronna Lee Broadwater, a student, prepares coconut snow balls-a Chinese pastry-for the Chef's Palette, the Art Instititute's teaching restaurant in Fort Lauderdale. Photo: Lonnie Timmons.