Kitchen Confidential 

Missoula's best-kept dining secret doubles as a training ground for aspiring gourmets

The student-run restaurant inside the College of Technology’s culinary arts department isn’t allowed to advertise, but serves short-order breakfast and lunch items Monday through Thursday, a full lunch menu Tuesday through Thursday, and a buffet every Friday. The lunch menu changes every week to showcase a different international cuisine.

photo by Chad Harder

The student-run restaurant inside the College of Technology’s culinary arts department isn’t allowed to advertise, but serves short-order breakfast and lunch items Monday through Thursday, a full lunch menu Tuesday through Thursday, and a buffet every Friday. The lunch menu changes every week to showcase a different international cuisine.

If I had come upon the Hunter Dining Room by accident, its menu might have scared me off. A short-order cafeteria and a Thai/ Vietnamese restaurant? Do I really want a bowl of pho or curried fish mousse from a place that’s also making Philly cheesesteaks and Kentucky Hot Browns?

I do. But then, I am already privy to Missoula’s best-kept dining secret. The University of Montana’s College of Technology (CoT) has a culinary arts department, and its students run a restaurant that, because it’s funded by the state, is not allowed to advertise (so as to not be competition for the private sector). I only know that it exists because I’ve taken a few classes there myself.

Sandwiched in a corner between the grill counter and the student dining tables in the CoT’s main building on South Avenue, the Hunter isn’t much to look at. Its institutional carpeting and high ceilings are softened by a canopy of rustic wooden poles and slats, but the AV equipment cart (for morning lectures) at one end quashes any pretense that you’re in a restaurant. Each day the short-order students serve up breakfast from 8 to 10 and lunch from 11 to 1 (including french fries and potato chips they peel and cut themselves), while the Hunter does a full lunch menu (appetizers, soups, entrees and dessert) of international cuisine that changes every week—on the recent Tuesday that I dined there, chopsticks were set on the table for the Thai/Vietnamese dishes; one week later, all the offerings would be Mexican.

At 12:30 in the afternoon, there are only a few customers—me, an elderly couple, a pair of teenagers (possibly from Sentinel High next door, rather than the CoT) and two UM employees—with but a single server, 21-year-old Nicole Taranto, who is a student in the five-week “Dining Room Procedures” class (she doesn’t get to keep her tips). A kohl-eyed native of New Jersey who grew up in Bozeman, Taranto is a transfer from the main campus, having spent two years as a journalism major before deciding to embrace her love of food.

I order Thai iced coffee (sweetened with condensed milk and steeped with star anise and cinnamon, $3) and check out the menu, knowing that Taranto can discuss what’s on it with unusual authority. Not only has she probably tasted all the dishes (is there anything worse than a waiter who hasn’t?), she’s also cooked at least a portion of them, depending on which other five-week classes she’s already taken. In addition to “Dining Room Procedures,” the program’s “station” classes are “Meat and Vegetable Cookery,” “Soups, Stocks and Sauces,” short-order (officially called “American Cookery”), “Garde-Manger” (cold items) and “Baking.”

“My favorite things we make all year,” she says of what I order, a $5 mixed appetizer plate (“Taste it all!” the menu suggests) with beef satay and peanut sauce, a salad spring roll, a shrimp quenelle on sugar cane and a steamed “lotus bun” with char sui pork.

Many students struggle with the program when they first enroll, but Taranto wasn’t one of them.

“What surprised me was how many people do think it’s too hard,” she says. “But I knew cooking wasn’t as glamorous as the Food Network makes it seem.”

Taranto wants to open her own restaurant, but probably not for seven to 10 years. After finishing the program she hopes to spend three months in Europe, and is applying for a five-month job in Antarctica (to pay her student loans), as well as a prestigious internship at Disney World.

The knock on eating at a culinary school establishment, of course, is that the kitchen is still learning. Mistakes are bound to happen (including on the menu, which on this day offers something called a “croque monsure”). But I know firsthand what it’s like to have Thomas Campbell, Tom Siegel and Aimee Ault, the school’s three chef-instructors, chide you for not spot-cleaning a plate with vinegar, or describe the color of your too-cooked green beans as “military,” or dismiss a dish you spent two hours on as “diner food.” And I was only in the introductory class, where no one but the teachers and your fellow students eat your cooking. No one in the station classes—which, together, make a single working kitchen—wants to send out average food or shoddily presented plates, probably even more so than in many local restaurants.

“The types of kitchens you have [in Missoula], it’s about getting things out in a timely manner,” says Oliver Fresquez, a student in my intro class with 14 years professional experience (most recently at the Montana Club). “Here it’s about the perfection.”

Of course, both the teachers and the students also know I’m in the dining room (sorry, no Ruth Reichlesque disguise). They would want to nail it for a former classmate even if I wasn’t also writing for the Independent. And sure enough, the mixed appetizer plate, which also includes a fiery-sweet delicious nuoc cham dipping sauce, is great. The beef satay is tender, and the shrimp quenelle, which has been mixed up in a Robot Coupe (food processor) and steamed, then grilled, has really balanced flavor. The only thing I don’t enjoy about the meal is that I’m not one of the people making it.

•••

I did come upon the culinary arts department pretty much by accident. And really, it’s amazing that I ever got there. A former picky eater, I had slowly shed my inhibitions after turning 30, and even more slowly, began to cook. Nearly 10 years later, by the summer of 2009, I’d gotten pretty good at it, had done a bit of food-related journalism, and thought it would be fun to upgrade my technique. I’d learned that Biga Pizza’s Bob Marshall had gotten his degree from the program in the early ’90s, and figured if it was good enough for somebody whose food I loved so much, it certainly was good enough for me. If nothing else, I thought I’d take a knife skills class, or maybe just insert myself into the program as a journalist, a la Bill Buford in Heat (about his time cooking for Mario Batali) or Michael Ruhlman’s books about the Culinary Institute of America.

click to enlarge Chef-instructor Thomas Siegel, center, ran the “Food Zoo” at the University of Montana for 30 years before teaching in the CoT’s culinary arts department. He’s known for lecturing on the history, geography and food traditions of the different countries each week’s menu draws upon. - PHOTO BY CHAD HARDER
  • photo by Chad Harder
  • Chef-instructor Thomas Siegel, center, ran the “Food Zoo” at the University of Montana for 30 years before teaching in the CoT’s culinary arts department. He’s known for lecturing on the history, geography and food traditions of the different countries each week’s menu draws upon.
I quickly learned there’s no knife skills class per se, and that you can’t do anything at all, really, without admission to the school (a handful of extension courses do get offered in the summer). And while Chef Campbell told me I’d be welcome as a journalist, he also made it clear that I could not pick up a knife or touch equipment without taking the prerequisites (“Intro to Food Service” and “Intro to Sanitation”), which certainly made sense. Fortunately, while many cities in post-Food Network America have private culinary schools that cost tens of thousands of dollars in tuition (which the schools themselves are happy to help lend you, being brokers just as much as educators), this was still the Montana University System—by comparison a total bargain, even for non-residents.

The “Intro to Food Service” class I ultimately took was taught by Chef Ault this past summer, but I also witnessed Campbell—tall, ruddy, blonde and certainly the most intimidating of the three instructors—roll out the red carpet for a group of students back in fall 2009.

click to enlarge PHOTO BY CHAD HARDER

“Lose the hats!” he barked, at people wearing baseball caps or knits.

“Button ’em up all the way!” he said as everyone put on their loaner white chef’s jacket.

And, my favorite: “This is not Rachael Ray anymore, Toto!”

“ABJECT TERROR” is what’s written in my notebook from that day, though not in regard to Campbell’s bluster, nor his by-the-way admonition that we shouldn’t lock our knees (he’s seen students pass out in hot kitchens). Rather, it was the enormity of what he showed us we’d be doing with our knives, and all in just two hours for a midterm practical exam.

“As chefs, you’re human food processors,” he said, before demonstrating onions sliced three different ways, parsley minced so fine (and dried) that it can come out of a pepper shaker, garlic transformed into paste with kosher salt, and the “you-leave-a-piece-of-skin-or-seed-you-fail” tomato concasse. There were also more than a half-dozen different root vegetable cuts, including the batonette (1/4-inch strips), the julienne (1/8-inch strips), the fine julienne (1/16-inch strips), and their three square-shaped equivalents (small dice, brunoise and fine brunoise). Plus (as I well knew from reading Michael Ruhlman) the dreaded seven-sided tourne—a mostly decorative football shape which even the instructors say only exists to torture culinary students, never to be seen again unless you cater high-society buffets.

“You’re never going to go to some family restaurant and be like, ‘Yeah, I want the tourneed potatoes please,” jokes Fresquez. But it does make you use that paring knife.

“At the five-hundredth or six-hundredeth tourne, you’ll be there,” Campbell says. Because really, there’s no such thing as “knife skills,” only “knife practice.” And even after doing better on the midterm than I thought I would—a 78, including six points off for taking longer than two hours—I still need a lot more of it.

I can, however, fabricate a chicken.

As Campbell says, “If you buy chicken thighs, you’re paying for the whole chicken and not getting it.” Plus, you don’t get bones for stock. At a restaurant, I would still be called out for aesthetically imperfect cuts and poor utilization (i.e., leaving usable—and therefore saleable—remnants of meat on the carcass), but as a home cook I can do the job.

••• The Intro class is something of a whirlwind tour of all the possible cooking techniques: poaching (including en papillote), frying, steaming, sauteeing, roasting, braising, etc. We learned how to work with rouxs, and how to make fresh pasta. We simmered stock, mastered the tricky art of consomme and split the work of making all five “mother sauces” (bechamel, veloute, hollandaise, espagnole and tomato). We also clarified a lot of butter (the cook’s best friend, because once the watery milk solids cook out, it has a higher smoke point than most oils…and it’s butter). Some students know more than others—two of the kids in my class, during the first lecture on making stock, were stunned to learn that gelatin (and thus, their favorite childhood JELL-O) comes from the collagen in meat bones.

click to enlarge PHOTO BY CHAD HARDER
But the class is only partially about the art of cooking. It’s equally about the pace and pressure of a large commercial kitchen, and the teamwork that it takes to get things done. By worshipping the gods of mise en place (literally, “everything in its place”) and production schedules, you learn to be efficient. “You are always, always, always under a schedule in a real pro kitchen,” Chef Ault tells us. “You have two hours until service, a half an hour until service, 10 minutes until service…Oh god, it’s service and we’re still not ready!”

Says Chef Siegel on another day, “I don’t expect you to do your dishes. I expect you to do your dishes, and someone else’s dishes.”

Were the instructors so inclined, they could start off every fall semester with the Paper Chase routine (“Look to your left, look to your right…one of you won’t be here next year”). Enrollment in the culinary program is at record highs, with almost the maximum of 50 students starting off in Intro this year. But there’s only room for half as many students in the winter (six stations, three to five people at each one).

“A traditional student who typically starts in the fall, right out of high school—unfortunately, a number of those students have misconceptions about culinary arts in general, especially at a collegiate level,” Campbell says. “They might have a poor work ethic, or they’ve seen too much Food Network, and come in thinking this is going to be like college ‘Home Ec.’ That’s when they get a dose of reality.”

There are also tests and quizzes, and a fair amount of homework to get ready for production every day, both on and off the cutting board (students are expected to type up production schedules, memorize most recipes and also cook at home). Most first-year students are taking other classes, such as “Interpersonal Communications” and “Technical Writing.” And, as in a real kitchen, absences are not an option, with five points knocked off from your grade for every no-show. You have to get at least a “C” to register for station classes, so if you miss three or four days, and aren’t positively acing every written test and practical exam (for the Intro final, we had to cook a pair of meals—protein, starch and veg—within two hours) it’s easy to wash out.

For every recreational food-lover who likes to cook at home and thinks it would be just as fun to do it in a kitchen for 200 people in the middle of July with no climate control, there are two people starting from scratch. Some have come directly out of high school. Some have kids in high school. Some were in the military. And some have been in other fields. Campbell notes that the economy has made the non-traditional and second-career students more prevalent than ever, which is unfortunate in some ways, but a real boost to the program.

“These folks have life experience, career experience in other areas, are pumped, and they’re ready to take on a heavy responsibility in learning, and that’s really neat,” he says. “If a student is here to learn more, we can feed ’em more.” Perhaps the most motivated of those students is Robert Smith, 31, a convicted felon and recovering substance abuser who has embraced his second chance with understandable determination.

“They had a guest speaker come [to prison] who said even though you’re a felon you can still enroll in college,” he remembers. “Everybody said I would never be in college, and I always try to prove people wrong.”

I noticed Smith that first day watching Campbell’s Intro class, asking questions and arranging to put in extra time. Then, in my own class this past summer, he was in the kitchen every day by choice, ready to help out the newbies—and to chew us out when it was called for, like when dishes piled up, or someone used their cell phone in the kitchen.

“I’m pretty vocal,” Smith says. “If you’re not pulling your weight or you’re pushing your work off on other people [I’ll say something]. I don’t ask anybody to do anything I wouldn’t do myself.”

With a ninth grade education and a GED, he’s carrying a B+ average, and recently left his old job at Johnny Carino’s for the more prestigious Silk Road. He initially enrolled in school to be a welder (coincidentally, one of the other culinary students is a welder looking to become a chef), but the program has just clicked for him.

“I don’t know the names of half the stuff I cook,” he says. “But I can look at a recipe and just go at it and it comes out excellent.”

Conversely, there are students who are grizzled veterans of the kitchen. One of my classmates, Erin Horner, 33, has a full-time job and also runs the “Mama’s Pantry” Clark Fork River Market stand, selling jams and other homemade goods (her kids and husband help out with the harvest and the canning). An accomplished home cook from the South, she hopes the class will help her make her living as a food artisan or caterer full-time. And then there are the guys like Manny de La Rosa (who was enrolled in school while also working on the line at The Pearl Café) and Oliver Fresquez—experienced cooks looking to gain more business/management savvy, and to burnish their credentials.

“I want to have my own restaurant one day, and it will be a lot easier to get financing and backing if I have the degree behind me,” Fresquez says.

During our intro midterm, Chef Ault told Fresquez that his knife skills might have been the finest that the program’s ever seen—but then docked him points for finishing too quickly, as he could have used the extra time to reach an even greater level of perfection. And while Fresquez’s fond of joking that the program’s “culinary French” vocabulary tests are dated (conversational Spanish being much more practical), he’s enjoying the advanced curriculum, which sees Chef Siegel lecturing on the history, geography and food traditions of the different countries each week’s menu draws upon. “I’m not really learning technique, because I already knew a lot,” says Fresquez, 34. “But I’m learning more about the different cuisines and cultures, and ingredients I’ve never used before.”

Having all these different knowledge levels, expectations and abilities, as well as different personalities, makes each day a sink-or-swim experiment in group dynamics just as much as cooking. I asked Chef Campbell how often he feels his job is actually psychologist, rather than chef or teacher.

“Every day,” he says. “Every day. You think you’ve seen it all, but that’s the beauty and the fun of coming here. There’s always going to be a chance to learn something new.”

Students who complete the program have put in their time at all six stations, taken the required general education classes and studied purchasing and inventory. They finish with a final spring semester known as “Capstone,” during which they go through the entire process of a restaurant opening, from business plan to financing to an actual seven-course dinner (the business plan and financing is just in theory, but the dinner, for 100 customers, is real). There’s also a “mystery basket” final (a la the Food Network’s “Chopped”), and a 180-hour internship served at an outside restaurant.

“We’re here to put an entry-level professional into the industry after two years,” says Campbell. “Someone who will be able to show up to work on time, and be sanitary and be professional.”

click to enlarge Enrollment in the culinary program is at record highs, with almost the maximum of 50 students starting off in the introductory class this year. But competition is intense as there’s only room for half as many students in the winter session. - PHOTO BY CHAD HARDER
  • photo by Chad Harder
  • Enrollment in the culinary program is at record highs, with almost the maximum of 50 students starting off in the introductory class this year. But competition is intense as there’s only room for half as many students in the winter session.
For all the trendy foodie interest and television shows, commercial cooking is vocational. It is craft as much as art. Campbell, a 1990 graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, is not much of a cheerleader for the culinary school explosion, even as his own program is crying out for new equipment and a bigger campus (see sidebar at right).

“It’s fun to see it happen, but I have a hard time understanding why,” he says. “Cooking is fun, but you don’t make a lot of money in this business. You work hard hours. You work odd hours. The profession is very demanding. It’s a poor career choice.”

But of course, it is a choice he made himself. And people like Nicole Taranto just feel called to it. “I have a passion for it, but it’s in no way easy,” she says. “I think it’s just because I love it that much. You don’t think of it as hard, because you don’t feel like it’s a job.”

Thomas Campbell Campbell, 54, grew up in an Air Force family (his first job, while still a teenager, was at the Officer’s Club) before settling in Seattle, where he worked for 17 years before attending the Culinary Institute of America (CIA), which he graduated from in 1990. His CIA internship was with esteemed New York City chef Gray Kunz at the Peninsula Hotel. Drawn to Missoula for the usual reasons (fishing, hunting, family in the area), Campbell took over the culinary arts program in 2002.

click to enlarge Thomas Campbell - PHOTO BY CHAD HARDER
Home Cooking “Oh yeah. I get called on to do holiday meals. I usually joke, ‘Good thing I didn’t train to be a proctologist.’”

Recipe Cider-Braised Sharptail Grouse with Natural Sauce As a chef, a hunter and a Montanan, this recipe has become a personal favorite for Campbell. It’s a simple preparation meant to bring out the superb taste of the meat.

Ingredients 2 whole wild grouse 1 gallon apple cider 1 yellow onion, fine diced 2 jumbo carrots, fine diced 4 ribs celery, fine diced 4 tablespoons unsalted butter 2 ounces canola oil salt and pepper to taste

1. Split the grouse and wash them completely. 2. Season by rubbing with salt and white pepper. 3. Heat oil in large sauté pan. 4. Sear the grouse halves on both sides before placing them in a roasting pan. 5. Add the onion, carrots and celery to the sauté pan and return to the heat. 6. Brown the vegetables lightly, then deglaze the pan with cider. 7. Scrape the bottom of the pan to get all flavors and ingredients that may have stuck. 8. Pour the contents into the roasting pan with the grouse and cover tightly. 9. Cook at 300 degrees for approximately 60–90 minutes. 10. Remove the birds from the roasting pan and keep warm. 11. Puree the pan juice and vegetables in a food processor or blender. 12. Strain and return the liquid to the roasting pan and continue to heat on the stove top until it reduces to a medium consistency. 13. Whisk in whole butter. 14. To serve, pour the sauce on a plate and arrange the grouse over the sauce. Drizzle with additional sauce. Delicious when served with wild rice. Serves four Aimee Ault An alumna of the very program she now teaches in, the 29-year-old Hawaii native earned an English degree at Pacific University in Oregon before falling in love with food and cooking. She worked at Disney World, Ciao Mambo, the Ranch Club, Hooters, Black Cat Bakery and Double Front (“my chicken-cutting days”) before a guest stint teaching nutritional cooking led to joining the culinary arts faculty full time. Epiphany “My first semester here I found that culinary school was a lot different than I expected it to be, and I didn’t necessarily know that I made the right decision,” says Ault. “Then it all clicked—I was working on the hot line, and with the adrenaline rush of getting orders and cooking for other people, it just made sense: This was what I was supposed to be doing.” RECIPE Miso Soup For Ault, growing up in Hawaii meant eating lots of miso soup; this is her grandmother’s own recipe. Ingredients: 8 cups water 10 dried shrimp 1/4 cup white miso 1/4 cup red miso 1/4 cup water 8 ounces extra firm tofu, medium diced 1. Boil dried shrimp in 8 cups of water for 30 minutes. Strain off liquid and reserve; discard shrimp. Bring liquid back to a simmer. 2. Add miso with 1/4 cup of water to create smooth paste. 3. Add miso to the simmering liquid and simmer for 15 minutes. 4. Add tofu and simmer until heated through. Yields 10 cups or 6 bowls Aimee Ault An alumna of the very program she now teaches in, the 29-year-old Hawaii native earned an English degree at Pacific University in Oregon before falling in love with food and cooking. She worked at Disney World, Ciao Mambo, the Ranch Club, Hooters, Black Cat Bakery and Double Front (“my chicken-cutting days”) before a guest stint teaching nutritional cooking led to joining the culinary arts faculty full time.

Epiphany

“My first semester here I found that culinary school was a lot different than I expected it to be, and I didn’t necessarily know that I made the right decision,” says Ault. “Then it all clicked—I was working on the hot line, and with the adrenaline rush of getting orders and cooking for other people, it just made sense: This was what I was supposed to be doing.”

click to enlarge Aimee Ault - PHOTO BY CHAD HARDER

RECIPE

Miso Soup

For Ault, growing up in Hawaii meant eating lots of miso soup; this is her grandmother’s own recipe.

Ingredients: 8 cups water 10 dried shrimp 1/4 cup white miso 1/4 cup red miso 1/4 cup water 8 ounces extra firm tofu, medium diced

1. Boil dried shrimp in 8 cups of water for 30 minutes. Strain off liquid and reserve; discard shrimp. Bring liquid back to a simmer. 2. Add miso with 1/4 cup of water to create smooth paste. 3. Add miso to the simmering liquid and simmer for 15 minutes. 4. Add tofu and simmer until heated through. Yields 10 cups or 6 bowls Thomas Siegel

The 60-year-old upstate New York native ran the “Food Zoo,” aka University of Montana Dining Services, for 30 years. A former guest instructor at the Good Food Store, Siegel is also an accomplished ice carver. His continuing education has included a full year at the Culinary Institute of America, several trips to Mexico with Chicago chef Rick Bayless, and the Northwest Earth Institute’s “Menu for the Future” program on sustainability.

click to enlarge Thomas Siegel - PHOTO BY CHAD HARDER
We Are the World

“Chef Siegel’s love and passion for ethnic cuisine took us to a complete new level,” says colleague Tom Campbell. “You’re not only learning the cooking techniques, but you’re learning about cultures, geographic areas, cuisines and ingredients.”

RECIPE

Chinese Barbecued Pork Buns (Char Siu Bau)

This four-part dish requires some commitment, but is typical of what goes on in Siegel’s classroom every day, with three different stations chipping in: soups, stocks and sauces make the pork (because it’s a smoking/preservation application), baking makes the dough and steams the buns, and finally, the meat and veg line gets it out for service.

To make the most authentic marinade, Siegel had to special-order the fermented red bean curd; home cooks can use a bottled sauce, while really lazy ones can skip roasting the pork entirely and hit Panda Express.

Part One: Cantonese Barbecue Pork (Char Siu) Ingredients: 1 pound pork tenderloin 1 tablespoon Sirachi sauce 1 cup ketchup 1/2 cup hoisin 4 tablespoons sweet Asian chili sauce 4 tablespoons Shaoxing rice wine 2 tablespoons sesame oil 1/2 cup fermented red bean curd, mashed with some marinade 1/8 teaspoon white pepper 1 tablespoon honey 1. Combine all ingredients except the pork. This is the marinade for the pork and sauce for the filling. 2. Place pork loin and the marinade/sauce into a plastic food bag. 3. Refrigerate the pork for at least 8 hours 4. Remove pork from the marinade and roast on a meat screen in a 325-degree oven for 2 hours or until roast reaches 145 degrees internal temperature. Baste occasionally. 5. Allow to cool. Part Two: Pork Bun Filling Ingredients: 3 garlic cloves, minced 1 medium-sized onion, small diced 3 tablespoons peanut oil 12 ounces Chinese barbequed pork, diced pea size 2 char siu marinade/sauce 1. Heat the oil in wok at high heat. Using a steel spatula, coat the sides of the wok about halfway up with hot oil. 2. Add diced onion and garlic and stir-fry until transparent. 3. Add diced barbecued pork and stir-fry for about 2 minutes. 4. Add sauce to the mixture and bring to a simmer. Set aside to cool to room temperature, and refrigerate. (It is easier to handle when cold.)

Part Three: Basic Chinese Bun Dough 1 package dry yeast 1 1/4 cups lukewarm water 6 cups all-purpose flour 1/3 cup sugar 1/2 teaspoon salt 3 tablespoons oil 1/2 cup milk, lukewarm 2 teaspoons baking powder

1. Dissolve yeast in 1/2 cup of the water. Let stand 5 minutes. 2. In a mixer set up with a dough hook, mix flour, sugar, and salt together. 3. Add oil, the dissolved yeast, milk, and remaining water. Mix well and process until a moist, elastic ball is formed, about 1 minute. 4. Place the dough ball in a large oiled ceramic bowl and cover with a damp towel. 5. Place the covered dough in a warm place for 1 hour or until double in volume. 6. Turn out dough onto a lightly floured board. Add baking powder and knead until it becomes smooth and loses most of its stickiness. 7. After resting, the dough is now ready to be shaped as required by the recipe.

Part Four: Putting it all together 1. Soak a bamboo steamer in water for about 10 minutes. Dry and lightly oil each compartment bottom. 2. Divide the basic bun dough recipe in half. 3. Reserve one of the halves under a damp towel. Roll the other half into a cylinder about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. 4. Cut the half into 12 equal portions and cover with damp towel. 5. Flatten one of the pieces between palms. 6. With a small rolling pin, roll the disk out to 4 inches in diameter. Roll the edge thinner than the center. 7. Place a tablespoon or two of filling in the center. 8. Begin pleating the edges of the dough, forming a pocket for the filling. 9. Continue pleating around to complete the pocket while guiding the filling into it with the thumb. 10. Close off the top by twisting the pleats together. 11. Place the buns seam side down, in oiled steamer basket. (If you don’t have enough baskets to hold 24 buns, then place the extras on an oiled cookie sheet until time to steam. Cover with a floured towel.) 12. Continue the rolling and filling procedure until you have made the first 12 buns. Repeat with remaining ingredients. 13. Allow at least 2 inches between buns. Set in a warm place, still covered with a floured towel, and let rise for 45 minutes. 14. Arrange pork buns on the steamer rack, leaving space between each. Cover, set steamer in wok over rapidly boiling hot water, and steam for 15 minutes. Do not remove the lid while steaming. It will stop dough from rising. Yeilds 24 buns

To add a hot and sweet Asian dipping sauce, combine 4 tablespoons Sirachi sauce, 2 cups Mae Ploy sweet Asian chili sauce and 4 teaspoons soy sauce. Gourmet future? College of Technology expansion could mean big things for culinary school

The University of Montana’s plan for a new College of Technology building is in legislative/economic limbo. But if and when it finally happens, the culinary arts department hopes to make itself the most ambitious program of its kind between Denver and Seattle, if not in all the Rockies and Northwest.

“Part of that campus would be a completely new culinary arts wing,” says program director Thomas Campbell. “And that wing would have more kitchens [including] a bake shop, a demonstration kitchen, an a la carte kitchen and a utility kitchen. There would be a full-service dining room, a patio for outside dining, an herb garden, composting and pulping of the food products, and solar panels.”

The curriculum would also grow. The current program, where students earn either a one-year culinary arts certificate or a two-year associate’s degree in food service management, would still exist, but there would also be a baking and pastry track and a “food processing” track. Students who opt for all three would receive a four-year bachelor’s degree in culinary arts, something the state (and the majority of private culinary schools) does not currently offer.

“The idea is to introduce the student to the future of the food service business, because it’s not going to be like it is now,” says Campbell.

He’s most excited about the processing curriculum, which would include slaughter and butchery as well as all the different types of preservation (smoking, drying, sausage-making). As anyone who’s read Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma knows, farmers are often limited in what and how they sell directly to consumers, by both federal regulations and the lack of available facilities.

“Right now there’s some food processing going on in this state, but it’s very, very limited,” Campbell says. “There’s not a facility, and there’s no training. So consequently, the product raised here goes out of the state to be processed, and then returns to the state. The idea here is to focus more on local product. To work with the Montana Department of Agriculture, with the Montana Beef Producing Association, with local farms and local food processors.”

Campbell estimates planning and construction of the wing would take five years, assuming the state eventually signs off on the project.

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