AN EXCITING NEW CULINARY ARTS SCHOOL IN VANCOUVER
by Vicky Farolan
The very vibrant and intelligent President and Director of Admissions of The Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts of Vancouver, Sue Singer, gave us a tour of the immaculately clean facilities of her Gourmet Institute last April 11th, and followed this up with a lunch 'Bon Apetit' under the direction of her business partner, world-renowned chef Walter Messiah from Monaco, who was Chef to royalty, heads of states, and celebritites.
What impressed me the most about the facilities, including the Training Restaurant, was the professionalism and artistic European ambience it offered. The Institute features a six month Culinary Arts Program and a six month Baking and Pastry Arts program with no more than twelve students assigned to one Chef Instructor. I observed the students in both classrooms and saw how each student was receiving the maximum personal attention by his/her instructor.
After the tour, we sat in the elegant dining room and had a taste of the school's lunch menu for that day, Friday. Let me start with what I would refer to as the "Picasso dessert" and move backwards towards the aperitif. I call it "Picasso dessert" because of the artistic elegance in which Messiah and his students prepared the desserts: a triangular chocolate tart decorated in Picasso-like sketches in Praline sauce figures , accompanied by a peach and melon sorbet which I found light and delightful to my palate.
The main course, a duo of Salmon and Seabass, was tres excellente. The seabass was cooked to perfection and had an extraordinarily unique taste. Messiah kept the secret recipe to himself but commented that it was cooked with the folowing herbs: paprika, cheyenne, curry, and a green sauce made of blended spinach and parsley which came on the side. The salmon was the other part of the duo and never have I tasted salmon this fresh. It was simply pan-fried, and just cooked right to the T, and very tasty, indeed.
The aperitif was an onion tart creatively mixed with Roquefort sauce. We had Mission Hill's Grand Reserve Pinot Blanc with it.
All in all, an A+ for this lunch! And for only $16! The Institute donates $1 to the Greater Vancouver Food Bank. And Mondays, take advantage of the the 2 for 1 lunch.
Singer, who sat with us all through lunch, was very open about how she had worked for the Management team in WARDAIR and after the Air Lines merged with Canadian Air Lines, she left. She worked for the Dubrulle French Culinary School as the Registrar, and this was where the idea of starting her own school struck her. In 1995, she started preparing the groundwork--looking for investors, a location, permits, etc. until finally, together with Messiah whom she met at Dubrulle, got the project off the ground. "There's a big demand for this profession," she said. Recently, Delta Hotels and Resorts has formed a partnership with the Institute, and this has created excellent job opportunities for its graduates. "This is a terrific endorsement of our plan to provide lifetime job placement support for our graduates", commented Singer. When I asked her about tuition fees, she said: "The tuition is truly reasonable compared to what is charged in Culinary schools in the United States". She pointed out that there were students from Minnesota, Texas and Seattle forming the first group of graduates. "For six months, tuition fees are C$8,950 which is low compared to fees in US schools", she added.
The school started operating in January this year and the restaurant just opened its doors for lunch (11:30-2pm) last April 3rd. Dinner hours (6:30-9pm) will be in effect in the summer, starting July. She plans to open the patio section of the restaurant in July when touristic activities increase in Granville Island where the Institute is presently located. An excellent melange of bread and pastries prepared by the students are reasonably priced at the Institute's bakeshop which is open Monday-Friday 9:30 AM - 4:30 PM. I would recommend the baby baguettes and the danishes.
The restaurant is also open for dinner meetings, private functions, birthday and wedding parties and under the guidance and direction of the Chef Instructors, the students will ensure that these events become a 'gastronomic success'.
Casual gourmet classes in groups of 6 are also offered and the group can enjoy an evening of 'hands-on' culinary recipes and techniques. These classes start July 8th, 7-10 pm Tuesdays, Wednesdays & Thursdays.
And don't forget to book your reservations by May 8 for Sunday, May 11th Mother's Day lunch between 11:30 AM and 2:00 PM, and be treated to this gourmet menu: Asparagus & Prawn Mescla in Smoked Salmon Oil, Grilled Sea Bass with Herb Couscous & Tomato Vinaigrette, Mango Caraibe, Coffee/Tea for only $26. Special children's menu for $9.95, and children under six eat free. Book your reservation prior to May 8th at (604) 734-4488. All Moms will receive a 'special gift'!