The Herald-Times
Food Fare

Ivy Tech cafe offers real-world tastes, lessons

Student-run cafe at Ivy Tech gives students experience and diners a tasty lunch

Posted: Wednesday, January 22, 2014 1:10 am

By Lynn Schwartzberg

Every Wednesday, a lucky group of diners have the opportunity to enjoy a three-course gourmet lunch for $10. Even better, this lunch provides the opportunity for culinary students to hone their skills, both in the kitchen and in the dining room.

The Crossing Cafe is at Ivy Tech’s culinary campus on Liberty Drive, and the chefs and servers are advanced students in the program, usually just about ready to leave the classroom and begin their internships.

As diners, our job is to eat and enjoy, I hope, the creative cuisine prepared by these ambitious students. We are to be there to give them a testing ground. In addition to food preparation skills, the students need us there to practice their plating skills and to learn how to present their food in an attractive and tempting way. It’s not enough to prepare delicious food; presentation is an important skill that must be honed.

For the next few weeks the focus will be French cuisine. Each week, a different region will be chosen and menus will be designed to highlight its cuisine. The same team of students prepares the food each week, working on different recipes and techniques to expand their culinary vocabularies.

Later this spring, the menu will shift to international cuisine. The students will be in their specialized cuisine class where they study cuisines from different regions of the world. The weekly menus will each focus on a different region with a special menu highlighting the culinary vocabulary of each area.

Wednesday lunch diners are served by students in the customer service class. They learn which side of the diner food is served from and which finished plates are removed. Proper beverage service, table settings and cordial guest interaction are all components of their class work. Without the weekly dining room, there would not be the opportunity to test their skills with real guests.

This summer, the Ivy Tech Culinary Program will have a retail bakery cart. This cart was functional last summer and was quite successful. The cart will be stocked with a variety of pastries and cookies for purchase. The hours have not been finalized yet, but last summer the hours were 8 a.m. until noon daily and are likely to be similar this year.

These two programs that welcome the community to enjoy the results of culinary students’ work serve an important function.

Soon, these students will become the cooks and service staff at our restaurants and hotels. The experience gleaned from this workshop setting will provide valuable experience to future chefs and hospitality workers.

The program chairman, Jeffrey Taber, has developed a curriculum that has been turning out competent cooks who have been successful finding employment in the culinary arts.  In a few short years, the Ivy Tech program has developed into a full-scale culinary school, and the Crossing Cafe is a natural outgrowth of the successful program.

One of the recent Cafe menus included gnocchi with parmesan and leeks, tomato water-ice with julienne of smoked salmon, stuffed pork bundles (braciole) with fresh tomato sauce and polenta, a fennel and red onion salad with tarragon dressing and panna cotta with fresh berries.

From looking at this menu, I identified at least 10 cooking techniques the students would need to have used as well as some food knowledge of the British Isles and different regions of Italy, the locales where the menu items are served. Julienne cuts, making gnocchi and emulsifying a dressing are just a few of the building blocks of classic culinary skills.

Next time you are looking for something different to do for lunch on a Wednesday, give Ivy Tech Crossing Cafe a call and get ready to enjoy a bargain and offer a valuable service to the culinary students of Ivy Tech.

About Crossing Cafe

For reservation for the Wednesday lunch at the Crossing Cafe, call Mike Case at 330-6381 or email him at Please call by 9 a.m. Monday for Wednesday’s lunch.

Lunch is served at 11:30 a.m. on Wednesdays only. The complete meal is priced at $10 and needs to be paid in cash, as the facility does not accept credit cards. There is a new menu every week at the cafe.

Crossing Cafe is located at 2088 S. Liberty Drive in Bloomington.

Classic French Chocolate Mousse

This recipe uses separated eggs. Folding whipped egg whites are a basic skill in the kitchen.

8 ounces bittersweet chocolate ( or semi sweet, use the best quality you can)

1 1/2 teaspoon instant espresso

1/3 cup boiling water

5 large eggs, separated, room temperature

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Break up the chocolate and put it in a saucepan. Dissolve the espresso powder in the boiling water and pour it into the pan with the chocolate. Over low heat, cook the mixture, stirring until smooth. Remove mixture from the heat and cool while beating the eggs.

Beat the yolks at the highest speed with an electric mixture for about four minutes until they are very thick and pale yellow. Reduce the heat to low and slowly pour in the warm chocolate mixture. Do not over mix.

In a clean bowl, add the salt to the egg whites and beat them until they hold a soft shape. Be careful not to overbeat or the whites will be difficult to fold into the chocolate mixture.

Adding one third at a time, fold the whites into the chocolate mixture until no whites show. With a large spoon or scoop, fill six large bowls or glasses with the mousse mixture. Refrigerate for at least four hours before serving.

Serve the mousse with a large dollop of freshly whipped cream.

Makes six large portions or eight to 12 smaller portions.


About Ivy Tech Community College

Ivy Tech Community College is Indiana's largest public postsecondary institution and the nation's largest singly accredited statewide community college system, accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. Ivy Tech has campuses throughout Indiana and also serves thousands of students annually online. It serves as the state's engine of workforce development, offering associate degrees, long- and short-term certificate programs, industry certifications, and training that aligns with the needs of the community. The College provides a seamless transfer to other colleges and universities in Indiana, as well as out of state, for a more affordable route to a bachelor's degree.