Wider Horizons

When the Lethbridge College Culinary Careers chefs and students were asked to help prepare meals for morelook at my amazing oven than 2,600 athletes and 175 officials during last year’s Alberta Summer Games, they didn’t flinch. They had the experience and the staffing, of course. And they were helped tremendously by some high-tech ovens that let them prepare meals for the masses in no time flat.

The ovens – officially called Rational Self-Cooking Centers – are “just another tool,” according to the chefs in the college’s culinary program, not much different than a chef’s knife or cast iron skillet. While they are quite a bit pricier than even the best cooking utensils (generally ranging from $13,000 to $16,000 a unit), they allow chefs to program the timing for an entire meal – from meat to potato to bread to dessert – to be prepared and kept warm until a precise moment when the meal can be served to hundreds at one time.

“Students use this new technology to aid in their learning of cooking methods and how it affects foods by designing their own programs that cook their selected item to their desired results,” says Lethbridge College Chef Mark Dieser.

Rational, the company that makes the self-cooking centres, explains that they take the guesswork out of cooking so chefs have more time for the essentials, like appearance and flavouring.

Dieser and his colleague Chef Allen Clampitt (Chef Training ‘81) put their teaching skills to good use with these self-cooking centres in the larger community as well as with students. In addition to using the ovens for college events and student learning, the chefs travel to restaurants, Hutterite colonies and care facilities throughout southern Alberta, eastern British Columbia and western Saskatchewan to train other chefs as well. Dieser had just returned from the installation of a new unit at Trappers Grill in Waterton in May and had several visits to Hutterite colonies scheduled later in the summer.

“It’s a great tool,” says Dieser. “It allows you to use your staff more appropriately, it ensures that the food is juicy and not dried out, and it lets you offer a consistent product every time.”

And it’s cool. Or hot. Whatever the chef needs it to be.

Lethbridge College’s self-cooking centres are used by culinary students year round. Community members are invited to enjoy some of the products of the students’ efforts by booking a table at the Garden Court Restaurant. The restaurant will be open for lunch in late September and early October, for evening dining in October, and for luncheon buffets in December. Call 403-382-6999 to make a reservation.

Wider Horizons
Lethbridge College
Original Publication Date: