A while back, I had an opportunity to tour the WVU-Parkersburg Culinary Academy facilities on Market Street. Program Director Gene Evans can barely contain his excitement about the resources available to him in that building. It is really breath-taking. The equipment - and space - available to students will have them spoiled before they know it.
I flatter myself that I know my way around a kitchen. Well, my kitchen, anyway. I can whip up a decent meal; and I am a sucker for the kinds of kitchen gadgets sold at those parties for coddled cooks (you all know the company I mean). I own a corn-cob butterer and a pineapple corer/slicer, among other items that have been used only once.
But I've never seen anything like the range of tools available in the WVU-P kitchen. I watched a movie a few years ago called "El Bulli: Cooking in Progress," about Ferran Adria's phenomenal kitchen (and restaurant) in Spain. Adria and his fellow chefs were so innovative, they closed the restaurant for half the year in order to retreat to their kitchen laboratory to create dishes for the next season.
On the big screen, I saw experiments with equipment like vacuum sealers and immersion circulators - the kinds of appliances that make my fancy-pants blender look like a toy. WVU-P has all of that and more, and students know how to use it.
In fact, the students were creating ridiculously delicious-smelling dishes while we walked through the kitchen. (Like I said, they have a lot of space.) There was a shrimp and rice concoction awaiting presentation, and it's a good thing I was with a group of people who would have ratted me out if I'd stolen a scoop.
Trays of desserts were also tempting me to make a cartoon-like scene of discovering how many I could dump into my bag at once. I did not.
But let me offer a piece of advice. Do not tour WVU-P's culinary facilities near dinner time, if you do not have time to stay and sample the fare.
Instead of being able to dive head-first into the plate of little tarts that was just out of arm's reach, I had to take my leave and rush back to the office for a bit. By the time I was able to head home, I was the kind of hungry that has you calculating what in your kitchen will heat fastest, in order to shove it into your face as quickly as possible. I decided on beefaroni. Out of a can. I had the burner on the stove turned on before I set down my purse. So much for culinary inspiration.
My thanks to Evans for showing us what an incredible program is available to WVU-P students. His enthusiasm is contagious. I'm only sorry I wasn't able to come up with a more worthy dinner option to match.
Before the tour of the kitchen, I was also told about a potential new program at WVU-P for bicycle mechanics. If the school puts into that program the same attention to detail and effort to give students the best equipment and education possible as I saw in the Culinary Academy, it will be another world-class program.
With all that good food coming out of the school's kitchens, we may all need to hop on bicycles to keep things in check.
Christina Myer is executive editor of The Parkersburg News and Sentinel. She can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org