PARKERSBURG - Students at the West Virginia University at Parkersburg's Culinary Academy are getting a buffet of experience in learning new and traditional methods of cooking.
The academy at 707 Market St. opened earlier this year and Director Gene Evans has been making use of a $250,000 grant.
He purchased a smoker, a six-burner stove with overhead broiler, juice extractors, dehydrators, table-top mixers and a vacuum sealer. The school has a sous vide, an immersion cooker that cooks sealed food in a water bath.
Jade Kalinofski batters onion rings for the fryer. Culinary school Director Gene Evans instructs Kalinofski and Alana Dailey on the best way to deep fry the onion rings. (Photo by Jody Murphy)
"Lot of chefs are starting to buy into this technique," he said.
Students are working on molecule cooking.
"It's been trending for the last year," Evans said. "International chefs are looking at different ways to present classic food."
Evans purchased chainsaws and grinders for students to learn ice sculpting.
"I have the newest toys in town," he said.
Jade Kalinofski, a first-year student, said her favorite part of the academy is using tools she's seen on television.
"Watching the Food Network, and my dad is in to cooking, and I see people using their things and I get to use them (in class). That's the coolest part to me."
Kalinofski went to school at West Virginia University for two years before returning home to St. Marys. She credits her grandmother with pushing her into the culinary academy.
"I have always loved cooking and I have a cupcake business, she said."
Early last week students in the academy's basic cooking class were working on fruits, vegetables and sandwiches. Three students prepared ratatouille, maple-glazed carrots, broccoli amandine, stir-fried asparagus and white wine-battered onion rings.
They are studying plating and styling food for presentation.
"I am encouraging them to play around with it," Evans said.
Evans has 10 students in the class. Six that started in March when the school opened at the downtown campus and four who started this semester.
He hopes to grow the class with another 12 students next semester.
As classes progress, Evans said they will use the downtown campus' dining space and will offer food sales throughout the week.
Students will assist with WVU-P's new employee luncheon at the campus, providing soup and desserts.
In addition to food prep and cooking, Evans' students are learning about place settings, buffets and other aspects of restaurant management.
"These are all things they will need to know if they want to go open a restaurant," he said.
Kalinofski said she loves the class.
"It's fast-paced and hands-on," she said.
Kalinofski said the class will pepper Evans with "a million questions a day."
"He knows everything about anything you could ever want to know about, she said."
Students spend about six hours in the kitchen classroom, that doesn't include one to two hours of lecture and classwork on sanitation and other aspects for food prep and restaurant management.
The lecture area features a 60-inch television screen.
The cooking school is much like a restaurant, Evans said, subject to OSHA and health department regulations. Students are expected to maintain restaurant-quality standards.
"They need to treat it like a job," he said.
The culinary school maintains a Facebook page, WVU-Parkersburg Culinary Academy, to provides photos and updates of the week's work.
The program offers a two-year associate's degree program with a blend of traditional classroom and online courses.
It will include all phases of cooking and provide students a local, more affordable option for culinary arts education.