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Grossmont College Offers Cutting-Edge Cuisine

A relaxed and refined dining environment awaits you at the Culinary Arts Department at Grossmont Community College. On a patio off the Student Center, you’ll be welcomed with twinkle lights, soft music playing in the background and most importantly, a gourmet meal that would stack up to any culinary fetes by major chefs.

It’s the weekly adventure in dining made possible by Chef Orate, head of the Culinary Arts Department at the college. Students in the Fine Dining Class bake the bread, concoct the soup and toss and dress the salad. They prepare the entrée with finishing touches and tie up the whole gourmet experience with a delectable dessert, such as Romance with Chocolate.

The students all take different roles during the dining experience, which takes place on Thursday evenings from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. People on the outside as well as folks who work and study on campus enjoy this culinary delight.

Paper Menu Rests in Napkin

Photo by Cynthia Robertson

Copyright©2006 sandiego.com, Inc.

During this Spring semester, students prepare several entrees and menu items from whichdiners choose. For a ten-dollar bill, diners enjoy a five-course meal with full-wait service. The students, dressed in banquet attire, graciously pour lemonade, water and coffee, and serve each course from the diner’s left, just as in any top-of-the-line restaurant.

Lynnette Wilson, a friend who works on campus, accompanied me at the dinner. The heat lamps kept us warm on the patio. For the first course, I ordered the Southwestern Black Bean Soup with roasted corn, brunoise vegetables, smooth garlic potato, garnished with a fried potato gaufrette and finished with a Southwest spiced cream. Lynette ordered the Island Salad of mixed greens tossed with caramelized pineapple vinaigrette in a spring roll shell, garnished with tomato, cucumber, marinated dried fruit, toasted nuts and finished with a bell pepper.

The Southwestern Black Bean Soup was perfectly seasoned, a little too mild for me, but exceptionally smooth. Lynnette commented on how colorful her salad was.

Green Apple Intermezzo

Photo by Cynthia Robertson

Copyright©2006 sandiego.com, Inc.

The Chef’s Choice Intermezzo, which I had never tried anywhere before, was extraordinarily refreshing. The tangy green apple sorbet cleansed our palate so that we could enjoy our entrée.

And enjoy we did. While Lynette feasted on the Cajun Style Catfish, I had the Breast of Chicken Stuffed with Spinach. Lynnette said she was overwhelmed with how good the catfish tasted. "It is cooked perfectly and not overly spiced. The hollandaise sauce is a wonderful creamy blend," she said.

Stuffed Breast of Chicken

Photo by Cynthia Robertson

Copyright©2006 sandiego.com, Inc.

The stuffed Chicken Breast rested on a bed of rice pilaf with julienne vegetables and White Wine Beurre Blanc, and then drizzled with red and green jalapeno oil. I appreciated the modest portion because it was so tasty and creamy I would have satiated myself, leaving no room for dessert.

And what’s life without dessert? Especially when it is as beautiful as an art form. My Romance in Chocolate was a mound of Chocolate Mousse blended with cheesecake under a soft shell decorated with a spun sugar fan and drizzled with raspberry and chocolate sauce. The accompanying banana cream sauce did nothing for me because I do not particularly like bananas, but the chocolate mousse was luscious.

Lynnette ordered the Elegance in Custard. "It’s a lot like Crème Brule, very well prepared," she said.

Freshly made coffee complemented the desserts; there was yet one more course to enjoy. "We have papaya jellies and apricot shortbread for you, as well as some truffles," said our waiter, presenting us with a glass plate of Petits Fours.

Romance in Chcolate

by Cynthia Robertson

Copyright©2006 sandiego.com, Inc.

I chose one of the jellies and was promptly rewarded with a bright, tangy burst of taste. Lynnette chose a truffle. "It’s so good, dark chocolate-covered ginger," she said. We were both bursting at the seams, having enjoyed a perfect dinner.

Since 1996, Chef Orate has been head of the college's Culinary Arts Department. The Fine Dining class is an essential component of the student working towards an AA degree program, which can take up to 2 ½ years to complete.

The Thursday evening fine dining class is called a "Quantity Foods Preparation." The Fall Semester's dining theme was fine banquet dining, while the Spring Semester’s is a restaurant theme, with people ordering off the menu.

The students are, in fact, getting the crème de la crème in training from Chef Orate, who has been the Executive Chef of Town and Country, Horton Grand and the Sheraton Hotels. "I'd reached a pinnacle of success as a chef when I won the Gold Medal in Culinary Olympics in 1996. I asked myself what was next, and I knew that teaching was a passion for me," said Orate, who became a full-time instructor at Grossmont College in 2000.

Currently, there are 300 students enrolled in the program, with more than half of them pursuing an AA degree. Call the Grossmont College ROP office at (619)-644-7550 to inquire about the Thursday evening dinner tickets, which must be purchased in advance of the meals.

Details »
  • City: El Cajon, CA
  • Phone: 619-644-7550
  • Name: Culinary Arts Department, Grossmont College
  • Address: 8800 Grossmont College Drive