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The North Wind

The North Wind

The North Wind

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Chloe Everson
Chloe Everson
Sports Editor

Hi! My name is Chloe and I am a fourth-year senior here at NMU. I am a Public Relations major and have always enjoyed sports. I love being outdoors, shopping, and drinking coffee at all hours of the...

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The North Wind is an independent student publication serving the Northern Michigan University community. It is partially funded by the Student Activity Fee. The North Wind digital paper is published daily during the fall and winter semesters except on university holidays and during exam weeks. The North Wind Board of Directors is composed of representatives of the student body, faculty, administration and area media.

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Café presents affordable meals by aspiring cooks

It’s Northern’s “best kept secret,” according to professors Deb Pearce and Chris Kibit. Nestled in the Jacobetti Complex commons area, it’s the student-run “Culinary Café” and restaurant “Chez Nous,” (French for “Our Place”). Here, students and community members will soon be gathering for affordably-priced meals prepared entirely by student cooks.

It’s one of three student-run programs in the Technology and Occupational Sciences Department that provides real-life experience to students seeking to improve their employability and master an important skill.

Loganne Boersema is a hospitality management major and para professional for the first class, Cook I. KKculinary1

“Students are exposed to an array of individuals, experiences and opportunities that allow them to grow both as individuals and industry professionals,” Boersema said. “[The] café allows our students to show off their skills and build their resumes in an environment that allows them to ask questions and try new things.”

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NMU offers a two-year associate’s degree in food service management and a four-year hospitality management bachelor’s degree. First-year students take Professional Cooking I and II in their first year, mastering basic skills like knife-training, seasoning, cooking, sautéing, baking and grilling. The café opens after the first six weeks of basic training, and then students become responsible for everything from planning and pricing meals to greeting customers and all aspects of running a restaurant. bKKculinary2

Deb Pearce, assistant professor of hospitality management, teaches Pro Cook I for the first semester and technology and applied sciences Professor Christopher Kibit takes over teaching for the winter semester in Pro Cook II.

As the students become seasoned, they take on more responsibilities, like serving breakfast in addition to lunch and offering an “action station” where food is prepared to order on the spot, said Kibit.

Last winter, the Culinary Café featured sandwiches, burgers, soups, salads, pizza, snacks and beverages for practically at-cost prices, ranging from 50 cents for coffee to $4.50 for a gourmet personal pizza.

In the fall from Wednesday, Oct. 23 through Thanksgiving, the Culinary Café is open for lunch (10:30 to 12:30 p.m.) Kibit said. And it is open for both breakfast (7:45 to 10 a.m.) and lunch in the winter semester, February through April.

“[Students are] building great references with some of the best chefs in the area,” said teaching assistant and hospitality management sophomore Edward Potter. “So I do believe this program will help [students] get hired.”

“I think one of our huge benefits is smaller classes and hands-on activities,” Pearce said.

“It’s almost a university-setting with the community college feel to it,” added Kibit, referring to the size of the program and the personal relationships that develop as a result.

There are about 150 majors currently in the program, he said, which has remained pretty steady in his 10 years there.

“This program is no joke,” Potter said. “We are much more than just cooks.”

“Sustainability is also taught in this program,” Potter said. “Supporting your local farmers, giving back to Mother Nature by composting and also growing our own vegetables.”

The program uses herbs and vegetables from NMU’s hoop houses on campus as a primary source of produce.

“Last year, we didn’t have to buy any greens until the end of fall,” Pearce said.

Junior hospitality management bachelor’s major Alexa Christensen is a teaching assistant for the Professional Cooking I class taught by Pearce. She helps students execute their labs and performs cooking demonstrations.

The first eight weeks of cooking labs cover knife skills, seasoning, baking, poultry and meat cooking, soups and vegetable cooking, among other skills, Christensen said. Students must also create their own special that includes a protein, vegetable and starch which is served in the Culinary Café.

“The students have to cost out their recipes and construct the Special Meal instruction packet, so that another student can execute it on the day that the special is served,” Christensen said.

“We encourage everyone to come down and try our student specials,” Boersema said. “The more our community supports, the more we learn.”

Every facet of the café is run by students, who learn  the grill, the cash register, fryer station, the line inside the kitchen and, of course, the dishwasher, Christensen said. Students learn time management skills, multitasking, customer service and critical thinking.

For many students, it’s their first time working in a commercial style kitchen and café setting, Christensen said.

Pearce said the cafe allows them to learn without the pressure of most commercial kitchens.

“The community is very forgiving when students make mistakes because they know they are learning,” Pearce said. This is not often not the case in a commercial restaurant, she said.

“I am proud to say that after having [a] pie explode [in the oven] and swearing off baking pies, I enrolled in the summer baking class and I am no longer intimidated,” Christensen said.

The students learn to prepare a diverse range of foods, Pearce said, and by their second year, they are whipping up challenging five-course themed dinners in “Chez Nous.” The dinners, (for a modest $15) spread out between October and December, cover territory like “Land and Sea,” Cajun, Grecian, Italian, Scottish and the woods-themed “Hunter’s Ball” to kick off deer hunting season in November.

Christensen said she entered the program with zero experience, except making pancakes and grilled cheese.

“Before taking the pro-cooking class I was a very picky eater,” Christensen said. “I have now tried foods I would have never thought of trying.”

Christenson is currently a cook at a restaurant  in Marquette as a result of her experience in the program.

The Culinary Café has a Facebook page with photos and updated menu items that can be found at Christensen said it has also become a place where students can ask food-related questions.

The NMU Culinary Café is located in the commons area of the Jacobetti Complex. It will open on Monday, Oct. 23.  Lunch is available from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.

NMU Dining Services meal plans are accepted with a limit of $8 per visit, but debit and credit cards are not accepted. Take-out meals are also available.

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