World cuisine: MUW international luncheons offer exotic fare, excellent training

February 23, 2011 12:06:00 PM

Jan Swoope - [email protected]


Diners with adventurous palates are enjoying a "world tour" this semester at Mississippi University for Women in Columbus. Three international luncheons featuring Mexican, Asian and Middle Eastern cuisine are providing big benefits, too, for culinary arts students -- and showing off brand new dining facilities in Shattuck Hall on the MUW campus. 


"We''re really excited that, for the first time, we''re actually able to host these here" said Culinary Arts interim director Chef Erich Ogle of the events more commonly known as "Lunch and Learns" in the past.  


Two new dining areas -- a "bistro" space that can seat about 40-45 people, and a larger dining room that accommodates 100 -- now occupy space previously used by the university''s art department, before its move to the renovated Art and Design Building. 


Easy access to dining areas adjacent to the culinary arts kitchen has opened a world of possibilities.  


"Up until this past fall, we always had to have functions over in the Pope Banquet Room and in different facilities off campus, like Trotter Convention Center," said Ogle. "This is a huge benefit: We don''t have to transport food and equipment and rent vans and all that like we''ve done in the past." 


This spring''s series of international luncheons began earlier this month with a menu inspired south of the border. The next, March 3, will feature Asian cuisine. The final luncheon, with Middle Eastern fare, is set for April 14. The cost is $21 per person. This semester''s luncheons are already full, but the institute invites anyone who would like to be added to their e-mail list for alerts about future functions to contact Cheryl Brown at 662-241-7472.  






Chef Vicki Leach oversees the luncheons, but the events are primarily student-driven. Each luncheon offers a restaurant-like experience, requiring students to handle the "front of the house" (dining room and service), as well as food preparation.  


"We design the menu (Chef Vicki helps), but for the most part, we have free rein," said Chris Washington of Greenville, a senior majoring in culinary arts. "We decide what tablecloths, the centerpieces, how we''re going to serve, the setting up of the dining room and the kitchen." 


The first luncheon''s menu, selected to represent Mexico and Latin countries, consisted of an appetizer of tortilla cups filled with a trio of salsas; sopa de lima y elote (corn and lime soup); ceviche (seh-VEE-chay) de camaron y venera (shrimp and scallop ceviche); pollo sautiado con salsa de asada pimienta (sautéed chicken breast with roasted pepper sauce); and sopapillas with honey, powdered sugar and cinnamon for dessert. 


"We all have stereotypes in our minds about what a certain country''s foods are," explained Leach. "What we''re trying to do is take a few ''familiars'' and team them with a few ''unfamiliars'' to provide a fine dining experience, complete with several courses and a pretty place setting." 


The variety of menus and opportunity to handle the service side of an event help students become better prepared for their all-important Finals Dinner in the fall.  


"This makes them more comfortable in their roles and gives them a chance to use their creativity as well as giving them a chance to do a little digging about the regions and their foods," Leach noted. 


For culinary arts majors like Washington, 22, the process is invaluable. 


"I love the fact that students are being exposed to this because it really is a good learning tool," he said. "We have people come to culinary arts school that have never worked in restaurants before, but they know they enjoy cooking, so this helps them. And for those who have worked in restaurants, it just reinforces their learning and their passion."  






Serves six 




1 pound bay scallops 


Eight limes, juiced 


Two tomatoes, diced 


Five green onions, minced 


Two stalks celery, sliced 


1/2 green bell pepper, minced 


1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley 


1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil 


1/8 cup chopped fresh cilantro 


Freshly ground black pepper 




(Source: MUW Culinary Arts Institute) 






Serves four to six 




1 tablespoon vegetable oil  


1 cup white onion, diced 


Two cloves garlic, minced 


3 cups chicken stock 


1 1/2 cup tomato concasse 


1 1/2 cup corn kernels 


Two jalapeno chiles, seeded and minced 


1 teaspoon ground cumin 


1 cup chicken thigh meat, thinly sliced 


3 tablespoons cilantro, chopped 


1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice 


Salt and pepper, to taste 




(Source: MUW Culinary Arts Institute) 








One package dry yeast 


1/4 cup lukewarm water 


3/4 cup milk 


6 tablespoons sugar 


1 teaspoon salt 


2 tablespoons butter 


One egg, beaten 


3 cups flour 


About 2 inches of vegetable cooking oil