The Joliet Junior College Culinary Arts Department wants to teach the area’s future chefs and restaurateurs the most sustainable way to dine by hosting the college’s second annual Farm-to-Fork Gourmet Dinner, a five-course meal that will include local ingredients, on Saturday, Sept. 27, outside the Campus Center cafeteria on the Main Campus, 1215 Houbolt Road in Joliet.
Only 200 tickets are available, so reservations should be made as soon as possible by calling Dori Miller at 815-280-2255. Tickets cost $75 per person.
JJC student chefs will prepare the local meal, beginning with hors d’oeuvres and beverages at 4 p.m., but patrons are invited to come as early as 3:30 p.m. for a meet-and-greet with the farmers, many of whom will have produced the food included in the dinner.
Culinary Department Chair Mike McGreal said the majority of the evening’s meal would consist of local food from no more than 250 miles away – and only a small percentage of other ingredients, such as flour, and fish (coming from Palmyra, Wisconsin), would be shipped from a further distance.
“This dinner will help the community think about where their food comes from,” McGreal said. “It’s important to support producers and growers from surrounding communities whenever possible. When you eat ingredients that are season, you actually are paying for products when they are at their highest quality.”
Because produce grows at its own speed, the menu will be a surprise, according to McGreal, although diners can expect a family-style salad course; grilled, roasted, and slow cooked meat courses; poultry and salmon courses; an abundant vegetable course; turkey and trout courses; and a dessert buffet course.
McGreal said this event will teach student chefs – the area’s future cooks and restaurateurs – that fresh food is always better than anything that comes prepackaged or out of season.
“Every dish is only as good as the quality of the ingredients that were used to prepare it,” McGreal said. “This event will teach students that quality ingredients come from quality producers and growers. To know your farmer is a great way to know and be certain of the type, quality and freshness of the ingredients you will be serving to your customers.”
McGreal added that the food for the Farm-to-Fork Dinner is coming from producers who enforce sustainable production practices on their farms, businesses, or aquaculture. Since the majority of the food is coming from local venues, and there is no need to waste gas mileage on trucks that cart food from across the country, students are getting a better understanding of sustainability by participating in the event.
Events like the Farm-to-Fork Dinner also help the JJC Culinary Arts Department by providing money for student scholarships and faculty professional development. Fifty dollars from each ticket purchased will go toward those funds.
The farmers meet-and-greet, taking place at 3:30 p.m., is open to the public and will give guests a chance to mingle with some of the farmers who will have their products on the evening’s menu. Guests will get the chance to ask questions and purchase their own fresh food. Other vendors, who appear regularly at the JJC Farmers Market, will also be at the meet-and-greet.
For more information about the Farm-to-Fork Market Dinner, or to make a reservation, call Dori Miller at 815-280-2255.