Joliet Junior College culinary arts students got the chance of a lifetime on March 10 when they were invited to cook a four-course meal for Governor Bruce Rauner and state legislators at the Executive Mansion in Springfield.
Hosted by House Leader Jim Durkin and Sen. Pat McGuire, 12 students and two professors highlighted their culinary chops in a meal featuring poached flounder and saffron herb mousseline, steamed mussels, braised fennel, honey brined pork tenderloin sous vide, and creamed rutabaga, amongst other gourmet entrees. Dessert included chocolate mousse, strawberry-vanilla bean anglaise, and crispy toasted meringue.
Besides the Governor, guests included JJC trustees, JJC President Debra Daniels, and JJC district legislators. According to Governor Rauner, this is the first event he has hosted in the mansion dining room.
“We are so proud of our students, our faculty, and our renowned culinary arts program,” Dr. Daniels said. “At JJC, our students receive the best training to prepare them for careers locally and across the globe. We thank Governor Rauner for his support of community colleges and for recognizing the important work they do in career training and ultimately their value in higher education in the state of Illinois.”
JJC students participating included Patrick Elens of Plainfield; Andrew Fisher of Homer Glen; Chloe Franscona of Woodridge; Jarvis Jones of Minooka; Katlyn Kelty of Coal City; Laci Lanclos of Peotone; Rose (Catherine) Mertens of Yorkville; Brian McPherson of Bartlett; Hannah Moeller of Millbrook; Rachel Pauley of Plainfield; Javier Reyes of Shorewood; and Jennifer Troccoli of Ottawa. Culinary arts professors included Chef Paul D. Bringas of Joliet and Chef Mark Muszynski of Plainfield.
All of the students are second-year students; many operate the Saveur Restaurant class at the college while some participate in the college’s popular Friday Night Dinner Series course. A few are members of the culinary hot food competition team and a few are members of our culinary knowledge bowl team.
“We continually strive to make our students’ time in the JJC Culinary Arts Program memorable and engaging,” Culinary Arts Department Chair Michael McGreal said. “Having the opportunity to prepare a gourmet dinner for the new Governor of our state is not only an honor, but an experience that our students and chefs will remember for a lifetime.”
Legislators representing seven counties within the JJC Community College District 525 were in attendance including McGuire, Durkin, Rep. Larry Walsh, Jr.; Rep. Emily McAsey; Rep. Dan Brady; Sen. Michael Hastings; Sen. Sue Rezin; Sen. Toi Hutchinson, Rep. Margo McDermed; Rep. John Anthony; Rep. Natalie Manley; and Rep. Mark Batinick. JJC trustees included Board Chair Andy Mihelich, Vice Chair Jeff May, Secretary Susan Klen, Trustee Barbara K. Adams, Trustee Tina Markley, Trustee Mike O’Connell, and Student Trustee Brian Herrera.
“Joliet Junior College is the culinary arts training capitol of Illinois, so it’s fitting that JJC culinary arts professors and students will be displaying their award-winning skills at the Executive Mansion in Springfield,” Sen. McGuire said. “This is one occasion when my hometown pride might be even greater than my appetite.”
Joliet Junior College, established in 1901, is the first community college in the nation. In 1969, the college instituted a culinary arts and restaurant management curriculum to meet the needs of a fast-growing industry becoming only the fifth American institution to offer professional training in the culinary arts. Now with just over 3,800 culinary training schools in the United States, JJC is still ranked among the best. The faculty is composed of all full- time, multi-certified chef and hospitality instructors with a combined total of over 140 years of industry experience.