Ivy Tech Culinary Arts Program
Ivy Tech’s Culinary Arts program in Indianapolis produces many of the area’s finest chefs. They learn the art and science of preparing superb food from Chef Thom England who has worked at the school since 2008. Chef England will teach them all about filling a plate with gourmet offerings. But just as importantly, all his students will come away with an awareness of the need to embrace environmentally sustainable practices in the operation of a restaurant.
Historically, restaurants have produced massive quantities of waste. Check a restaurant dumpster at the end of the day and you will typically find huge quantities of food waste and paper products. But at Ivy Tech, the curriculum includes a 53 point statement of objectives that requires students to know how to buy local products, secure alternatives to non-recyclable items, know how to compost and to develop an appreciation for a kitchen herb garden. As part of their training they will realize the cost of putting things in the dumpster as well as the water that goes down the drain. When these aspiring chefs have a restaurant of their own, they are unlikely to follow the wasteful practices of the past.
Ivy Tech operates two restaurants in the former Stouffer’s Hotel building on Meridian St. Both follow principles of sustainability. Each kitchen has three bins for waste: one for recyclables, one for composting and one for the dumpster. The last one doesn’t get much use. Chef England proudly points to their compacting dumpster and says, “We used to have to empty it every week. Now it’s been eight months since we last had it emptied and it’s still got some space.”
A major reason that so little goes to the dumpster is “Oscar”, a large machine that grinds up both animal and vegetable waste as well as paper products of all kinds. The result is a compostable material that goes into the gardens behind the school. These gardens produce herbs and vegetables that will head back to the kitchen.
The environmentally sound practices at the school’s facility are a superb example of what an institution can do. But more importantly, Ivy Tech’s Culinary Arts program will create awareness in the students of the need to do things differently. Chef England believes that this will transform the culinary world.
Submitted by Richard Clough