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Posted by: Date: March 27, 2008 In: ,

Culinary Week features talents of master chef

Italian flavors reigned supreme at PLU’s first-ever Culinary Week that featured certified master chef Ken Arnone.

Hosted by Dining and Culinary Services, the week included interactive cooking sessions taught by Arnone, PLU staff and local experts, as well as a free lunch featuring authentic Italian cuisine.

“We have this new facility and many new staff members, all who bring to the table different culinary talents,” said Erin McGinnis, director of Dining and Culinary Services.

Three of the dining managers, including McGinnis, are both PLU and culinary school graduates. The interactive sessions showcased the talents of the staff and provided an educational opportunity for the PLU community, she added.

Dining staff were also be in class during the week, as Arnone spent three days instructing them on regional Italian cuisine to improve the pasta and pizza offerings in The Commons. According to McGinnis, the staff is better equipped to prepare authentic dishes and get the best flavors because they understand the building blocks and culinary traditions behind them.

“There’s great potential for kicking out some fabulous pasta dishes and pizza dishes,” McGinnis said.

Arnone is one of only 61 certified master chefs in the United States. He was last on campus two summers ago to train dining staff on new Asian recipes he developed for PLU. A former classmate of McGinnis’ from the Culinary Institute of America, his background includes stints at several prestigious hotels and restaurants across the nation, teaching at the culinary institute and numerous awards.

Along with PLU staff and local experts and alumni, Arnone hosted several interactive cooking sessions throughout the week that were open to the PLU community.

“We thought as long as we’ve got Ken on campus and have him in the back of the house teaching staff, why not make the same types of things available for students, faculty and staff?” McGinnis said.

The interactive sessions and “Flavors of Italy” lunch on Wednesday were free for students, faculty and staff. The schedule included:

  • Fresh pasta demonstration and tasting with Ken Arnone
  • Olive oil tasting with Ken Arnone
  • Italian cheese tasting with Ken Arnone
  • Chocolate tasting with PLU baker Erica Fickeisen
  • “Flavors of Italy” lunch in The Commons, featuring the new flavors Arnone taught the Dining and Culinary Services staff. Donations were accepted for the PLU Community Garden.
  • Risotto demonstration and tasting with Ken Arnone
  • Truffles and tempering with PLU baker Erica Fickeisen
  • “How to Cook a Catered Meal from your Residence Hall” with Lisbet Mielke ’90, owner of Ravishing Radish Catering
  • Thundering Hooves natural beef presentation with Keith Swanson ’89
  • “Sushi Demonstration and Tasting” with PLU lead cook Casey Tomlinson and lead catering cook Javier Alejndro
  • Interest session for the PLU Community Garden hosted by the PLU Garden Club
  • Latkes demonstration and tasting with Svea Erickson ’06, PLU catering manager
  • Falafel demonstration and tasting with Erick Swenson ’91, PLU culinary operations manager, and Tony McGinnis

For more information, visit the Dining and Culinary Services Web site.