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Elegant education


District 21 restaurant is home to culinary arts and a top-shelf teaching school.

Angela Botzer January 8th, 2014

Everything is truly mise en place (all ingredients prepared and “put in place” before cooking) at The Francis Tuttle School of Culinary Arts, 12777 N. Rockwell Ave.

Photo: Shannon Cornman

With the ultra-sophisticated District 21 restaurant, supported by nine state-of-the-art, on-site teaching kitchens, this school is on the sharpest edge of culinary arts in Oklahoma.

Each teaching kitchen offers individual student workstations (about 16 students and one instructor per kitchen). This is sheer heaven for any culinary arts student. The teaching kitchens include a garde manger — a cold kitchen for food to be kept at a cool temperature — a curing room for hams and prosciutto and a charcuterie. There is also a pastry kitchen and chocolate kitchen — yes, a chocolate kitchen.

In the meat and fish kitchen, each student works on a refrigerated work surface, and after preparation, the meat and fish are immediately stored in refrigerated drawers below.

At the instructor’s workstation in another teaching kitchen, a perfectly drawn diagram of the components of eggs Benedict was displayed.

It was enough to make anyone hungry, and with my newfound culinary knowledge, I wanted to construct Eggs Benedict at home.

“We place a special emphasis on using locally sourced and humanely raised meats, seasonal produce, plus locally produced ingredients to promote environmentally friendly and sustainable choices,” said Marc Dunham, the school’s director of culinary arts.

“We also try to offer gluten-free options as well on our weekly menus,” he said.

The culinary arts curriculum accepts area high school students as well as adults of all ages in both day and evening classes.

“The tech skills learned here are also life skills and professional experience skills,” Dunham said. “After attending The Francis Tuttle School of Culinary Arts here, whether our graduates are working in restaurants, bakeries, cafeterias or elsewhere, employers will see that they’re dependable, extremely bright and always anxious to learn more.”

The late Laurie Colwin, writer and contributor to Gourmet Magazine, wrote in her book, More Home Cooking, “It always seems to me that cooking is like love. You don’t have to be particularly beautiful or very glamorous, or even very exciting to fall in love. You just have to be interested in it. It’s the same thing with food.”

These culinary arts students are completely, passionately interested in food. All of the students are engaged in what they are doing, whether cooking, chopping, preparing or, most importantly, honing their culinary skills.

In the very elegant District 21 restaurant (on campus at Francis Tuttle Technology Center; call 717-7700 for reservations), you can see the kitchen staff in action for yourself. The open kitchen, visible from the intimate restaurant seating area, creates a relaxing but engaging atmosphere.

Some of the offerings on the menu include chicken with chimichurri sauce (a delightfully savory Argentinean sauce), fingerling potatoes and carrots.

“The chimichurri sauce is made in a traditional style, but it’s my own recipe,” said chef and restaurant instructor Carlos Martinez.

“Two demi-glace [sauce] styles are often used with the rib-eye steak. One is a traditional, made of a combination of sauce espagnole and brown stock, and a new style which is just the reduction of brown stock to a desired thickness.”

This is served with potatoes and haricots verts (French green beans).

Top off your evening with a luscious crème brûlée, a traditional custard dessert served with seasonal fresh fruit and freshly whipped cream.

 
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