The Bon Appétit team at the University of Chicago helped students from the Illinois Restaurant Association Educational Foundation’s ProStart program get their hands dirty — on purpose, with a three-day camp that included a field trip to a local farm.
Through their partnership with UChicago Dining, the culinary team hosts ProStart students for behind-the-scenes kitchen tours and farm visits, offering a special look into the hospitality business. Twenty students from local high schools arrived for camp excited to visit farms, try new foods, and talk shop with farmers and culinary staff.
Activities kicked off with a tour of the Arturo Velasquez Institute, a satellite campus of local Daley College that offers diverse educational programs and enrichment courses to community members. From there they traveled to Bon Appétit Farm to Fork partner Windy City Harvest for a packed visit including walks through the greenhouse, a review of their robust aquaponics system, and discussion of the apprenticeship program for training in sustainable urban agriculture. The group even rolled up their sleeves to help harvest carrots, tomatoes, and rainbow chard — which they all said was a highlight of the visit.
Students also visited Testa Produce, a leader in utilizing renewable energy sources and minimizing waste. (It’s the first LEED Platinum Certified produce operation in the U.S.) Back on campus, they attended an admissions workshop led by UChicago staff and toured the campus dining commons, including the commissary kitchens and Pret A Manger location.
After tasting Commissary Chef Bruno Bell Alves’ Impossible burger, the team challenged students to create their own food service concept, from logo to floor plan and sustainable practices. Dubbed “The Great Hospitality Challenge,” the results were fun and creative, from bubble cone desserts to meatless comfort foods and a Parisian-inspired café. Students presented their vision boards, and the winner was determined by meeting the challenge criteria, as well as exceptional teamwork and creativity. The grand champion — Build a Brownie with their dessert bar vision for different brownie bases, accompanied by a variety of seasonal toppings and ice creams. All were very excited to show off their ideas to judge and TV personality Rochelle Trotter!
Submitted by Colleen Maul, Marketing Manager