Wallace State

When is an $80 meal not an $80 meal? When it’s served for $5 once each week at the Culinary Arts Café at Wallace State Community College.

Starting Wednesday and continuing each Wednesday through the rest of the fall semester, the WSCC Culinary Arts program is coloring outside the lines of local cuisine, bringing a next-level food feast that anyone can grab — all for that low, $5 fixed price.

Okay, Culinary Arts program director and executive chef Aaron Nichols didn’t exactly affix an $80 tag (or any price) to the value proposition of what the café’s serving up. But, he affirmed, the food you can sample at the café’s weekly Wednesday lunch service is definitely a cut far, far above your typical dine-and-dash fare.

“It’s very high quality food,” Nichols said Tuesday. “Yes, it’s five dollars — but it’s not ‘five-dollar food.’ In fact it’s quite elevated food.”

Both sides of the exchange get something good in the bargain as part of the Culinary Arts program’s weekly lunch service. Because it’s fully open to the public, anyone can get a great meal at a seriously great price. And because it’s a key piece of training for 200-level Culinary Arts students, aspiring chefs at Wallace State can get a live-fire lesson in the demands of meeting high culinary standards — all in a real-time food service environment.

“Our students are required to go through a course known as CUA 122 — Applied Quantity Cooking,” Nichols explained via phone, fresh from an afternoon run to the grocery store. “It gives them a real-world working experience before they go out and get a job. It’s basically my opportunity to put them in a stress test; a hands-on situation where they produce food to order.”

The lunch service kicks off today and repeats each Wednesday until the end of the semester, before taking a holiday break and firing back up in the spring. The café offers the $5 lunch service from 11 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. every Wednesday, and it’s located right off the main ground-level lobby of the Wallace State Nursing Building — the Culinary Arts program’s new on-campus home.

Nichols said the program, which currently fields around 30 students, is always eager to hear from prospective new ones.

“If anyone is interested in learning more about entering our program, they can email me directly and even arrange to spend a day cooking and observing,” he said. “All of our lecture courses are now completely offered as online/hybrid courses. We only meet in person for labs, which, in our case, means kitchen work.”

To find out more about the Culinary Arts program at Wallace State Community College, contact director Aaron Nichols at aaron.nichols@wallacestate.edu.

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