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Students learn big meal basics in Quantity Food Production class

November 19, 2012

They’ve been planning and making big meals all semester in Quantity Food Production. Throughout November and early December, students are serving 22 lunches in the Corner III Cedar Café, a restaurant in 304 Heritage Hall.

The meals are open to the campus and public. They include a choice of soup or salad; meat or vegetarian main course; and dessert and beverage. The cost is $8.50. Tickets are sold in advance and, if available, at the door starting at 11:30 a.m. Seating is limited to 65 per meal.

Megan Widor, right, checks on stuffed portobello mushrooms being prepared by classmate Varsha RamlakhanA total of 69 students in four sections are taking the course, which is required for dietetics and hotel, restaurant and tourism management majors and is an elective for other majors.

It’s a hands-on experience. Students choose their menus, research and test their recipes and order and prepare the food, under the guidance of instructor Judy Kennedy from the School of Hospitality Leadership and her lab assistants.

A different team of two to four students is in charge of each meal, with the remaining students from that class serving as restaurant staff for the day.

“They learn a lot,” Kennedy said. “They take the meal very seriously and put a lot of time and effort into it. It’s a real restaurant. They’re serving the public.”

Judy KennedyOn meal days students work in the large, fully-equipped kitchen from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Each meal has a theme. On Tuesday, Nov. 20, the pre-Thanksgiving meal is Gobble ’Til You Wobble, featuring pumpkin soup and turkey panini. On Wednesday, Dec. 12, the final meal of the semester, it’s Winter Wonderland, featuring cranberry-apple stuffed pork loin and eggnog pound cake.

Cooking up Gridiron Classics

On a recent day, the theme was Gridiron Classics, featuring tailgating favorites chili, potato salad, bratwurst, stuffed portobello mushroom and S’Mores Bar. Napkins were green and gold and students wore Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings garb under their crisp white uniforms.

The meal leaders were Sam Heilmeier, a senior from Weston; Megan Widor, a senior from St. Cloud, Minn.; and Ali Woychek, a senior from Brooklyn Park, Minn.

Widor had extra pressure. Her parents own the Blue Line South restaurant in St. Cloud and the Blue Line in Sartell, Minn., and were on their way to campus for the meal. Although she has worked in her family’s restaurants, mostly in service, she was getting a taste of her parents’ much more intense world.

“The hardest part is getting people to do what you tell them to do. We’ve had some little mistakes on quantities, but it’s going well,” Widor said. “It’s a very beneficial class because we’re cooking for the public.”

Heilmeier has worked in his family’s business, 2510 Restaurant in Wausau, for seven years but was learning many new skills in the class, including how to manage a restaurant staff and how to rewrite a recipe for a large number of people.

Meal leaders are required to write detailed descriptions of how to prepare each recipe and have the instructions available on meal day. Heilmeier understands the benefit of that approach.

“We’ve written the recipes out so well that (classmates) could prepare the food even if we weren’t here,” he said.

A little more than an hour before customers arrived, students were busy stuffing mushrooms, cooking a big pot of chili and peeling boiled eggs, as well as preparing tables and the food serving area.

Woychek works at Stella’s Fish Café in the Uptown neighborhood of Minneapolis and interned last summer at Landmark Resort in Door County. She was service leader for the meal. “It’s stressful. You want everything to go right. You want the food to look good and taste good,” she said.

Other meal themes this semester have included Native Feast, Taste of Italy, Southern Comfort, Fuel Up for Finals, Tour of the Mediterranean and the Silk Road.

Kennedy, a registered dietitian, has a Master of Science in food and nutritional sciences from UW-Stout. She has been teaching the class for three years, but it has been offered at UW-Stout for more than 20 years.

“I’ve learned a lot from Judy. She prepares us well,” Widor said. “She’s hard on us but helps us.”

For more information, go to the School of Hospitality Leadership or the dietetics program.


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