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Restaurant 101: Utah culinary students run their own eateries at Salt Lake City's International Culinary School

Published: Wednesday, Feb. 24 2010 12:00 a.m. MST

Tyler Burns, right, a student at the Art Institute of Salt Lake City, helps prepare Emerald Shrimp. The student chefs cook up "five-star meals at two-star prices." for the public. The school's restaurant is called the Savory Palate.

Brian Nicholson, Deseret News

The dining tables are set with linen tablecloths and fancy folded napkins, and an attentive waiter in a dress shirt and tie takes your order as the aromas of sizzling steak and seafood waft from the kitchen.

The elegant ambience says "fine-dining restaurant," but this is actually a training lab for culinary students.

And for value-minded diners, it can be an enjoyable and relatively inexpensive meal — "five-star cuisine at two-star prices," according to Frank Krause, academic director at the Art Institute of Salt Lake City's International Culinary School in Draper.

The Art Institute's student-run restaurant, The Savory Palate, offers a three-course lunch with beverage for $12.95 on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, from 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. Since the school is currently focusing on international foods, lunch could be a taste of the Caribbean with black bean soup, jerk chicken with sweet potato cakes and bananas Foster for dessert — all prepared under the watchful eye of an instructor.

"We're providing the students an opportunity to practice their craft and reinforce the techniques they would see in a restaurant," said Krause. "And the customers get to see future culinarians being developed. Maybe one of these kids they've had a meal from might have a restaurant down the road someday."

At Greg's Restaurant, run by Utah Valley University's culinary school, you can get a five-course dinner for $20. On Feb. 12, the French-themed menu offered entree choices of grilled lamb chops with sweet onion risotto cake, beef tenderloin with cabernet-whipped potatoes, Dover sole with mushroom duxelles and sauteed duck breast with Gruyere Dauphinois potatoes.

During the annual Lobsterfest in January, diners can choose from steamed lobster, grilled truffled lobster, lobster paella or lobster thermidor, along with an appetizer, soup, salad and dessert, for $34. The restaurant/kitchen is tucked away in a lower-floor corner of the UVU events center.

The restaurant experience gives culinary students an opportunity to cook a wide variety of items, and diners a chance to try them. For instance, UVU's French menu included appetizer choices of escargot and sweetbreads, which aren't seen on many restaurant menus in Utah.

"We want the students to learn to cook a variety of ingredients and different cuisines, because as a chef, you never know when you will have to prepare a special menu or do banquet with those items," said chef Troy Wilson, who oversees UVU's restaurant.

It's also a chance to meet some budding chefs, such as "Big" Anthony DeNovellis, who said he hopes to have a TV cooking show someday. During Lobsterfest, he was part of the wait staff.

Both of these restaurant labs are for advanced students. They rotate through various cooking duties in the kitchen, as well as the "front of the house," seating customers, taking orders, refilling beverages or busing tables.

"This helps them understand that critical component of customer service," said Krause. "And they learn about timing, how to turn a table and how to keep things organized and clean."

Andrew Sargent at the AISLC said, "I work as a cook at a restaurant downtown, so I already know something about the kitchen. But my ultimate goal is to run a restaurant, so understanding everything that my wait staff has to do is important. I've learned a lot about organization."

Brianna Reynolds said she plans to open a cake company someday, and her stint as a maitre d' has helped learn to interact with people. "It's good training for a future business owner," she said. "One thing I've found out is how fast-paced it is."