Cooking up a Future

By Megan Shepherd / Photography By Carlotta Tiews | October 28, 2015
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Food careers are on the front burner at Platt

One bite into a sharp, peppery sprig of basil from the Platt College culinary program’s edible garden confirms my long-held belief that fresh tastes better. Luckily for this culinary program, fresh is the name of the game.

Platt College has been serving up professional education in Tulsa for over 35 years, but its facilities, along with its culinary and pastry arts programs, are enjoying some new flavor.

The college came under new ownership in August of last year after being purchased by Ancora Education, based in Hurst, Texas. The group offers professional and vocational schools across Texas and Arizona and thought adding an Oklahoma institution to the menu made sense. Since then, Platt’s Tulsa campus, and the culinary programs in particular, have enjoyed several updates. Revamped marketing efforts, farm-fresh menus at the school’s signature restaurant, called Foundations, and raised garden beds are just a few of the school’s many surprising offerings.

Each term, certain students and instructors are tasked with planting and upkeep of the edible garden. The bounty is used in class cooking as well as in certain menu items at Foundations. With rows upon rows of carrots, lettuce, grapes, tomatoes, peppers and herbs at their disposal, the farm-to-table concept is easily brought to life for culinary program students. Raised garden beds made from elegantly arranged cinder blocks balance the garden’s urban sensibilities and give the exploding patches of bounty a sense of order. The unruliness of the oregano can’t be tamed, as the herb grows wild and rough across the front of the garden like weeds, yet with fistfuls of the spicy herb on hand at any given time, no one seems to mind too much.

Director of Culinary Arts Jeffry Howard says there are plenty of avenues available to graduates after completing their education at Platt, including work in commercial kitchens, and some more offbeat opportunities.

Restaurants, hotels, hospitals, schools, casinos and even cruise ships are just a few of the professional paths open to graduates, and the program has even spurred additions to Tulsa’s booming food truck scene. “We try to figure out what we can do for the industry, and make sure we fit a niche that people are looking for.”

Platt’s culinary program curriculum is specifically tailored to educate students on the demands of working in a commercial food setting, whether that be as a chef, line cook, front of house employee or manager. To make sure every side of the industry is represented, students are exposed to everything from the physically demanding work of hauling, cleaning and cooking in a hot kitchen to the numbers game of cutting menu costs.

“We go through management, we go through line work in the restaurant, we talk about basic culinary concepts, we try and teach them how to cost items, build menus,” Chef Howard explained. It’s all part of a larger, supplemental college-wide curriculum that’s designed to give students a taste of the working world.

“They also go through some general education requirements: math, English, art, intro to business, business ethics—stuff like that—so they can be comfortable when they go in for an interview, get a job, talk to customers, all of these different things. Our goal is to make sure that they can get a job.”

Students of the culinary program spend about half their day in instructor- led lectures, and the other half in hands-on practicum with Platt’s culinary staff. It’s here where they learn how to maneuver a cook’s workspace. The Culinary Institute is equipped with a fully functioning kitchen and prep areas and a full-service restaurant on site. To meet the demands of the commercial workspace and the time constraints that come with it, students are tasked with time-sensitive challenges, including cooking and plating ala carte lunch dishes in under 12 minutes (a fitting window for the busy lunch-break diner). It might sound like fun and games, but in reality, it’s what’s waiting for students on the other side of graduation.

Food lovers looking for a less career-oriented introduction to cooking might find more value in one of Platt’s non-diploma granting offerings, like the Edible Adventures cooking classes held weekly at the Tulsa campus.

Designed for the home chef or burgeoning cook, Edible Adventures are a wonderful way to build upon foundational cooking skills, or get behind the stove for the first time. Each class revolves around a specific theme, and with enrollment limited to six to 10 people per course, one-on-one instruction is both helpful and plentiful. Courses slated for November include a crash course in chocolatology and a hands-on look at bread baking, among others. Classes start at $75 for two hours.

Curious to see what the school churns out in the way of talent? Stop by Foundations Restaurant for lunch or dinner prepared by the school’s students. American fare with a slight French influence manifests in dishes like Navarin of Lamb and Crepinette of Quail, and the ala carte menu at lunchtime promises to get business-minded diners in and out in a flash. White linen tablecloths, gleaming glassware and seasonal menus give the restaurant a feeling of casual luxury, but don’t worry—walk-ins are always welcome, and the food is more than approachable.

Foundations also offers monthly beer and wine dinners to the public, often featuring vendors with Oklahoma ties. Past paired dinners have included a beer dinner with Marshall Brewing Co., and a wine dinner with Julian Wines.

“It’s an opportunity for us to play a little bit outside the box,” Chef Howard said, and to expose the Tulsa community and culinary program students to new trends in food and drink. The next themed dinner will be a Beaujolais Nouveau wine dinner, to be held on November 20, about $70 for food and wine.

For reservations to Foundations call 918.828.0980 or visit OpenTable.com

For more information about Edible Adventures call 918.895.9407 or visit their Facebook page.

For more information about the culinary arts or pastry arts programs at Platt College, visit www.PlattColleges.edu

Article from Edible Tulsa at http://edibletulsa.ediblecommunities.com/food-thought/cooking-future
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