Fall 2010 |
At first glance, the produce is familiar. But look closely—tomatoes are black,
cucumbers are brown, eggplants are yellow and sweet corn is blue.
These twists on a chef's staples are exactly what Garden Specialist Patrick Duffy is
growing. Duffy is caretaker of MCC's first on-campus garden that will teach Culinary Arts
and Horticulture students how to bring food from the ground to the table. The Fort Omaha
Campus quarter-acre garden is an exercise in urban agriculture; dozens of varieties of
vegetables are grown without pesticides and chemicals in a small area. "A lot of people
still think of food in boxes or in cans in the supermarket, not something in dirt," said
Jennifer Valandra, Special Projects Manager at the Institute for the Culinary Arts (ICA).
"We are showing students the sustainability aspects of a local garden, but also showing
them how to be creative with their ingredient choices. We will give students more tools to
As the garden matures, Culinary Arts students will learn how to cultivate produce and
utilize the fruits of their labor in menu development and recipes. Through the use of
moveable, unheated greenhouses, the garden will produce nine to ten months out of the
year. Locally grown ingredients will feature prominently in menu items at the Sage Student
Bistro, which opens for Fall quarter at the end of September. Students are already
enhancing dishes with herbs from the patio garden, just outside the Bistro.
Faculty at the ICA say cultivation and sustainability is becoming increasingly
important in the restaurant industry as diners and chefs integrate local, sustainable
foods into their menus. The Bistro Garden, located just steps from the ICA, will expose
students to tasty food with a low environmental impact. "The carbon footprint is literally
footprints across the parking lot," Duffy said.
Moreover, students are learning that organically grown foods can have better flavor
than large-scale commercial produce—meaning the chefs' future creations will be even