It was time again to help raise funds for the scholarship program at Schoolcraft College. This is a wonderful event where the alumni come back to show the public at large their progress and successes. The Culinary Arts Program at Schoolcraft College is a wonderful facility, even better now that they have the VisTaTech Center/Waterman Wing on the campus. The kitchen environment that the students learn in, probably far surpasses any facility that they will end up working at, but the alumni return year after year representing the restaurant, catering firm, hotel and other businesses that they now either own or work at. Not only the students, but some of the instructors at the school, are also chefs and restraunteur striving to bring us the next generation of chefs.
As my Bride and I were in line to enter this year’s Culinary Extravaganza we were discussing how some of the business owners and chefs come to represent their establishment. My Bride thought that they would be too busy, in their own right, and the alumni are a great marketing tool, just as well. The first table that we walked up to was one of the best, which I remembered from last year. In fact last year, the restaurant had not even officially opened the door to their second venture. As we approached the table, there was a woman who questioned the restaurant, because she had no knowledge of it, and I casually mentioned to her, that the first restaurant Cuisine is across the street from the Fisher Theatre in Detroit, while The Stand, now almost a year old was in downtown Birmingham. Then I noticed a man in a chef’s coat give a big thumb up, and I realized that he was the top chef for both of these restaurants and we chatted for a few minutes, while his table was swamped with guests eager to try their offering.
I guess that I should mention what I mean by tables, and how this event works. Upon entering into the facility each guest receives a personal tray that has a cut out slot in one corner, and this is where the wine glass that they also receive can be placed to facilitate tasting the samples of food being offered at the tables. There are a group of restaurants and then there is a table representing a wine distributor or other beverage organization. Each restaurant has a table with signage, and most of them show that they also have alumni from the college working for them. At the table, there is one dish or perhaps two that the restaurant is offering a taste of what they offer. I have found that the dishes that are offered are always a great enticer, to make us want to try a visit to the restaurant. There was quite an array of dishes being offered from steaks, chicken, pork and seafood from traditional to novel. While one or two bites per table may not sound like much, by the time one has meandered around the halls trying everything, or just being selective, by the end of the session, all of the guests have that glazed, over fed look to them. In fact I lost my Bride for awhile, as she had already been sated and went to one of the display classrooms to learn some new culinary dishes and trade secrets, not to mention a couple of glasses of wine.
I mentioned that there were tables of wine, and there were ample wines to be enjoyed, but I do have one complaint that I have noticed over the years of attendance as a guest. While the quality of the food dishes offered has increased, the selections of wines have diminished. When we first started the tables were manned by representatives of the distributors or even from the wineries, whereas now the tables are manned by volunteers, some who have taken wine appreciation courses from the college, but others have not. I realize that the food and the beverages are all donated, but I think that it would behoove the beverage companies to have representatives to explain some of the wines, and then perhaps the selections being offered might start pairing with the quality of the food being offered. The other thing that I noticed that was new to the experience was that all adults were given a lanyard with a “Guest Drink Card” and fifteen squares that were to be checked of by the servers of beverages. Some of the volunteers, volunteered that the guest cards were because of liquor liability rules being changed, and they were also told to have a shorter pour of each drink sampled and to make a check mark on the guest cards. In the old days, I have to say that the wine tables were separate parties of their own, and some of the volunteers that had a few years under their belt were still in the old mold, and I guess some of them were too busy, to check off the squares. Several of them, even remembered me from years past, as I would take pictures of the labels before trying a wine. I will discuss some of the wines in future articles, and all in all, the event is still wonderful, because they do fund scholarships and we shall continue to support them as often as we can.