Monday, March 10, 2014 was an evening full of food, awe, and support for Chicago’s culinary school, Kendall College. What better way to learn about Kendall College and what the culinary students are capable of-when they serve complex and delectable dishes with the guidance of a famous alumni chef?
The Blank Canvas Dining Series, according to Robin Malpass, Executive Director of the Kendall College Trust, “creates a platform to have alumni chefs come back with their own creativity. At Kendall, it is always about the student, in the corner there is one table of scholarship students that are joining us for dinner. This demonstrates culinary hospitality needed to be successful in the restaurant business and without the financial help of the donors here tonight, they would not be able to attend Kendall. They see an alumni chef that’s made it and they can sit in a restaurant with the donors that are supporting them”.
The inaugural event had alumni chef, Shawn McClain, who heads up Green Zebra in Chicago and Sage in Las Vegas. Chef McClain was honored with the prestigious award of “Best Chef in the Midwest” by the James Beard Foundation in 2006. In addition, Shawn was named “Chef of the Year” by Esquire Magazine and “Rising Star Chef of the Year” by the Jean Banchet Awards for Culinary Excellence. Clearly, the students in the kitchen with Shawn learned a lot in those few hours! Robin Malpass spoke about Shawn and said, “he is so successful, a great name in this industry and he is so generous with his time and always willing to come back to Kendall”. Malpass hopes that this will be a series based on an alumni allegiance to the small and well-connected college.
I spoke with Kurt Pfister, Kendall graduate in ’90 who currently is a partner at Eurest. He spoke about the camaraderie that exists between chefs, and between generations you can see the creativity that different folks bring to the table. Current student, Brenda Martinez spoke about her experience and said, “seeing the students interact with a new chef is amazing, this is my last quarter and I will graduate with a bachelors”. She spoke about the opportunities available to current students, and after her graduation, she has been offered a position helping to open a restaurant in Guatemala for a year. Without the opportunities and connections she has made at Kendall this would not be possible.
The great thing about Kendall College’s Dining Room? It has unbelievable views of the Chicago skyline on Goose Island, with creative menus and culinary decadence. The menu included courses such as handmade cavatelli with sheep’s milk ricotta, pistachio, black truffle, and the fourth course was a slow-cooked duck breast with creamy polenta, black garlic, wild rice, and foraged mushrooms! How absolutely delicious! If you are ever looking for a fine dining experience without the wait-be sure to see what Kendall College is serving up! Chances are, its innovative and you are helping a culinary student practice their craft.