“Who knows what I mean when I say food fusion?” asks Executive Chef Justin Kaderlik, of Sodexo, Bethel University’s food services provider. He looks around the group of students gathered in Bethel’s Monson Dining Center kitchen. Junior Jesse Dresselhaus finally offers a guess: “It’s combining foods that you might not expect would work together.” Kaderlik can barely contain his grin. “Exactly. It’s about thinking beyond the norm. Taking ingredients from different areas, techniques and flavors from different cultures, and combining them to create something completely new. The sky’s the limit. And that’s what we’re doing tonight.” On the evening’s agenda are recipes that sound like they came from an upscale restaurant menu, not from a university cooking class: grilled chicken tikka masala with tomato jalapeño cream sauce over aromatic coconut lime jasmine rice; garlic basil and garden tomato bruschetta on toasted crostini; crème fraîche cheesecake with sour cherries and seasonal fruit. Those dishes are just a few that students in Sodexo’s spring cooking classes learn to prepare, from prep to presentation. Kaderlik relishes challenging his protégés. “There’s a lot of skill level here,” he says. “I’ve had students come into class who have really done their homework. They know the ingredients; they have the knife skills. We have some veterans here from last year’s class, too.”
A Different Kind of Classroom
Makes 8 servings Ingredients for toasted crostini: 1 loaf fresh bread (preferably French baguette or French bread) Olive oil Kosher salt (to taste) Coarse ground black pepper (to taste) Directions for toasted crostini: 1. Preheat oven to 350°F. 2. Cut bread on a thin bias. Place onto baking tray, spacing bread slices evenly. 3. Drizzle olive oil over bread slices, then season the bread with kosher salt and ground black pepper (roughly 75% salt, 25% pepper). 4. Bake bread slices at 350°F for 12 to 14 minutes, or until they become golden brown. 5. Set crostini aside to cool. Ingredients for bruschetta: 2 fresh Roma tomatoes (diced) ¼ fresh red onion (diced small) 1 ½ teaspoons fresh garlic (minced) 1 tablespoon fresh basil (chiffonade—cut into thin strips) 1 cup balsamic vinegar (reduced) ¼ cup fresh grated Romano cheese or shredded parmesan cheese Kosher salt (to taste) Coarse ground black pepper (to taste) Directions for bruschetta: 1. Pour balsamic vinegar into stainless steel pot and place on stove on medium heat. Reduce the balsamic vinegar until three-fourths reduced. (Watch closely. Balsamic can easily burn.) To test the thickness of the balsamic reduction, remove a small amount with a spoon and drip it onto a cold/stainless steel surface. The consistency should be thick when cool, like the consistency of pancake syrup. 2. Strain diced tomatoes to remove excess water. 3. Mix tomatoes, red onions, garlic, olive oil, and cheese. Season with kosher salt and pepper to taste. 4. Scoop a small amount of bruschetta mixture onto toasted crostini. 5. Sprinkle fresh basil leaf chiffonade on each bruschetta crostini. Using a spoon, drizzle a small amount of balsamic reduction over each.
photo by AnnMarie Vennerstom
photo by AnnMarie Vennerstrom
About eight years ago, Sodexo General Manager Bob Schuchardt came up with the idea for student cooking classes. His modest goal was to prepare students for life after Bethel by teaching the basics of grocery shopping and equipping a kitchen. He also hoped to increase students’ knowledge and awareness of food. “We wanted students to appreciate the whole food cycle, from where it comes from and how it’s produced, to how you prepare it, to enjoying it.”
Garlic Basil & Garden Tomato Bruschetta on Toasted Crostini