Industry Advisory Board Samples Students' Work at Annual Tasting Fair
One of the benefits of being on Lexington’s Industry Advisory Board is the chance to attend the annual Tasting Fair showcasing the work of students taking Menu Planning, Garde Manger and Strategic Marketing.
Menu Planning, a class for students specializing in Restaurant Management, Culinary Arts or Gastronomy, treats the menu as a strategic document. While professor and restaurant owner Jennifer Monti explains menu pricing, menu engineering and formulating a business plan based on strategic menu choices, students design dishes and concepts for the restaurants of their dreams. Then they bring it all down to earth by designing a menu of passed hors d’oeuvres for Lexington’s annual Tasting Fair. The menu items are then divided between the two courses working in the production kitchen.
Garde Manger, taught by full-time culinary arts professor Alex Erdmann, is the science of the “cold kitchen.” It includes such things as: smoked and cured foods, salads, sausages, pâtés, pickled foods and condiments. Because their preparations typically take place away from the hot line, garde manger also includes hot hors d’oeuvres. For the Tasting Fair, the class prepared chicken skewers, brie on walnut toast with seasonal preserves and turkey sliders.
“In a traditional business curriculum, Strategic Marketing would not normally include food production,” says business professor Grace Wisowaty, “but our class is unique. Our corporate partners KeHE distributors provide us with retail food products and we challenge the students to create innovative marketing strategies for those products. They experiment with the products and create recipes for their use in the home kitchen.” Chef James Gottwald gives the students a complete run-down, including an in-class demo, on the ingredients they will be marketing. Their homework is to create a recipe using those ingredients and return the next week ready to prepare it and submit it to the class for evaluation. For the Tasting Fair, the strategic marketing team prepared mini-empanadas with a trio of sauces, crab cakes and Chef James’s famous butternut squash soup recipe.
The menu was designed to pair well with the currently trending Fall treat, hard cider. “When our friends at Chicago Beverage Service found out that we wanted a hard cider theme for the Tasting Fair, they insisted on sending over three of their most popular brands,” said Lexington President Kelly O’Leary. “They sent Angry Orchard, Crispin and Strong Bow. I tried them all! It’s amazing how, like wine or beer, each hard cider has its own distinct flavor.”
Some think of hard cider as a modern trend; others see it as an American classic. “Contrary to popular belief, our forefathers, the Puritans, drank heartily, though never with the purpose of getting drunk,” reports Mary Weber (Class of 2015), who did a report on Puritan drinking practices in her History of Hospitality course. “The Puritans in New England drank hard cider because they needed to use their meager grain harvest for bread. Apple trees grew well and hard cider was as easy to brew as beer.”