Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts

If you have read this blog before, you may know that I have a background in foods and nutrition, as well as an interest in culinary tourism. It was for this reason, that I arranged a "behind the scenes" tour of Vancouver, Canada's, Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts (http://www.picachef.com/). My reception at the facility was typical of that famous Canadian hospitality (upper left photo), and Director of Admissions, Bali Mann, took time out from his busy schedule, to show me the various food preparation areas that support the retail operations of the center (bottom photo).

Mr. Mann explained that the senior level students were currently on assignment away from PICA at "The Olympic Club", which was the elite food service facility for VIP's involved in the 2010 Olympics at Vancouver. He was relating how exciting it had been for those students to have the opportunity to cook for, and serve, dignitaries that included visiting royalty, as well as corporate moguls. He said normally it is these senior level students that oversee the operation of PICA's on-site restaurant that is open to the general public. However, since the senior students were away, the "rookies" were in charge on the day of my visit. These so-called "rookies" did a fantastic job, and I can't imagine their food items being any tastier or prettier than those I received! The Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts offers a variety of Professional Programs, Continuing Education Programs, Short Programs, and Private Cooking Classes. In fact, with all the famous people being in the Vancouver area for the Olympics, they had just that week hosted some very well-known television broadcasters for some private classes and Corporate Team Building Classes.

I was completely intrigued by the way that one of the students was making "curlycue's" out of caramel. She did this by swirling caramel, at just the proper consistency, around a metal cylinder (upper left photo), then gently letting the "slinky-like" product slide off the cylinder, once it hardened (upper right photo). I would see later just how these creations were used, when one of them came as a garnish to my dessert (lower photo). Although I had advance reservations for a meal in their dining room, one can still sample the PICA cuisine, even if you can't get a reservation in the dining room. This is because they have a bakery open to the public (8 am - 6 pm, Monday to Saturday) that serves both savory and sweet items made fresh daily on the premises. Purchases there can be dine in, in adjacent coffee shop area, or take away. Adjacent to the bakery is their Boutique where you can purchase their cookbook, logo mugs, gift cards, and t-shirts. Shop in person while there, or shop online from their website. Also on display by their Boutique were the numerous awards they have received. The ones that impressed me, were the "Healthy Chef" awards, as well as their Consumer's Choice Awards for Business Excellence.

The dining room for the facility overlooks the waterfront on one side; there are large windows on the other side of the dining room, where you can observe the students preparing their culinary masterpieces. I took photos of my meal, with the upper left showing their artisan breads and butter balls. The "starter" item I ordered (upper right photo) was described on the menu like this: Dungeness Crab Cake and Quinoa Salad + Miso Aioli. My entree (lower left photo) was delicious and consisted of Oven-roasted chicken breast stuffed with goat cheese, sun-dried tomato, and pinenuts, Grainy Dijon Sauce, and Roasted Red baby potatoes. My dessert was also incredibly good and was called an Apple Galette with Cream Anglaise and Caramel Crisp. As I was enjoying this sumptuous lunch, in such an extraordinarily gorgeous location, I couldn't help but think of the Bible verse in Psalm 34:8 that says "Taste, and see that the Lord is good." Well, Tricia tasted and saw that the Lord was good, and so was the staff at the Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts!! They gave my taste buds "miles of smiles"! Tricia
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