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CHEF’S PALETTE CAFE

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Chef’s Palette Restaurant

by Malcolm McClintock 

 

 

 

A meal at the Chef’s Palette restaurant is always a fascinating experience. This student-driven eatery features an unpretentious dining room situated smack in the middle of multiple teaching kitchens.

When seated, all diners have unobstructed views of industrious students clad in white coats and billowing toques, cooking mouthwatering dishes, preparing baked goods, listening to instructors, or simply chopping vegetables for their next culinary concoction.

The assuaging din of food preparation lets patrons know that enormous amounts of effort, desire, creativity and hard-work are going into their upcoming meals.These students want to be the best and therefore cook to impress.

The opportunity to enjoy this experience is limited to two days a week with both a lunch and dinner service. Currently, Thursdays and Fridays are the only days the restaurant serves its well-regarded prix-fixe meals.The formula is quite simple: $14.99 gets you a surprisingly sophisticated three-course lunch meal, including dessert and coffee. In the evenings, the price is adjusted to $17.99 for essentially the same menu but with a bevy of added options.

Even better, an appropriately paired beer or glass of wine will only set you back $5. If you are with thirsty friends, get a whole bottle for under $20.

“The course we teach here is very efficient for the students because they learn all aspects of running a restaurant, from back to front of the house.They learn to cook, greet customers, take food orders, serve meals as well as taking care of the bills and dealing with suppliers,” says Chef Instructor Asser Y. Ghali, who also holds an MBA in International Hotel & Tourism Manage- ment from Schiller University.

He is just one of the many talented and knowledgeable faculty members who contribute to the glowing and growing reputation of this International Culinary School.

“We change our menu often in order to provide as much exposure and variety as possible to our students and guests,” says the Egyptian born Chef who, in his spare time, teaches online management courses at South University.

Currently, the Chef’s Palette“table d’hôte”offering is loaded with appetizing selections that will please even the most discriminating of restaurant habitués.

From Crispy Pork Belly with grilled corn relish, custard and pickled jalapeño to Florida Hog Snapper Ceviche with jicama, mango, coconut, basil and lime, the appetizers are as tantalizing in their descriptions as they are on the plate.

Other lunch starter options include simple Tomatoes with summer peaches, pickled red onions, feta cheese and zesty cilantro vinaigrette as well as a salutary Roasted Beets and Orange Salad with candied walnuts and goat cheese.

The current entrée selection features a dish called Fresh Flounder Duo. The flaky, white fish is served both pan-seared and in Brandade form.The latter is a French preparation from the Provence region originally composed of salt cod puréed with olive oil and milk or cream and sometimes garlic mashed potatoes.

In this case,flounder was substituted for cod resulting in a delicious creation similar in texture and taste to a crab cake. Embellished with Gigante white beans, mushrooms and butternut squash, this thoughtfully constructed plate displays great aesthetic seductiveness as well as exceptional papillary appeal.

Another enticing main course is the flat-iron steak with fingerling potatoes, cherry tomatoes and Kalamata olives served with lush gravy.The generous portion of tender meat is cooked to one’s liking and beautifully presented—a feast for the eyes as well as the mouth.

Lastly,poultry aficionados will find solace in the toothsome Crispy Skin Half-Chicken with eggplant caponata, capers, raisins and mustard seeds.Again, this resplendent dish drew rave reviews from fellow patrons.

Well, on this day, the largest table in the dining room was filled with guests from a local meetup.com social networking group called the Daytimers, who were on hand to experience a sumptuous meal made by eager young apprentices.

Formed through the organizational Internet platform of meetup.com, local groups are generally started by individuals with a specific passion who want to interact with others of the same ilk. Weekly or bi-monthly meetings are organized for those interested in sharing similar pursuits.

So whether you want to explore the local art scene, join a wine club or ride with fellow motorcycle enthusiasts, this website and many like it provide instant access to others with common interests.

Enter Lauren Kaufman, a New Jersey native who recently moved to South Florida.After a dogged search, she realized there was no meetup group for people such as retirees or part-time workers who actually have free time to do activities during the day. Consequently, she decided to start the “Daytimers” club.

This association is mainly composed of individuals 50 and over who meet once a week to experience new restaurants or participate in entertaining activities.

“When my husband passed away, I didn’t want to be eating alone all the time,”says a remarkably effervescent Suzanne Parker.“I just moved to Ft-Lauderdale from Montego where I owned an Artisan bakery. I looked at people’s profiles on the Internet and decided to join this group”adds the loquacious Anne Yipchoy.

The refrain is similar with Mark Johnston.“I am retired and don’t want to just sit at home. I really enjoy meeting interesting people,”asserts the Coral Springs resident.“I agree.The people I have met have all been very friendly and we do many fun events,” chimes in recent retiree Andrea LeBoss from Boca Raton.

And the numbers are quite staggering. A social interaction facilitator such as meetup.com, recognized as the world’s largest network of local groups, claims a membership roster of nearly 10 million individuals who connect on over 90,000 different topics.

Want to practice your French? Looking for people who like snorkeling? Does someone else share your passion for dung beetles? (okay, technically it’s called the entomology club).Well, there is always easy access to a group of likeminded individuals in your area.

As stated in the literature, the website “makes it easy for anyone to organize a local group or find one of the thousands already meeting up face-to-face. More than 2,000 groups get together in local communities each day, each one with the goal of improving themselves or their communities.” Or sometimes just the more pragmatic goal of eating good food and partaking in spirited conversation.

Be it a Chocolate Pretzel Cake with matching mousse and ganache, a light Panna Cotta custard with toasted almonds and amaretto ice cream or a Coffee Cake with brown butter and ice cream, there was something for everyone.

And as a concluding bonus, the charismatic Chef Ghali completed the pleasant midday repast with a live cooking demonstration.With oratorical precision, impressive dexterity and meticulous overall execution, the experienced cooking instructor dazzled the crowd with his eye-catching flambéed “Crêpes Suzette”that were subsequently sampled by everyone at the table.

If you or your group would like to support the next generation of culinary artists, please drop by the Chef’s Palette for a dizzyingly inexpensive three-course meal. Call ahead as service times and seating availabilities are limited.The students will thank you… as will your wallet and your taste buds!

Anyone interested in joining the Daytimers meetup group, please contact Lauren Kaufman at www.meetup.com/DAYTIMERSmeetup-com

Restaurant review by Malcolm McClintock. This review is for promotional purposes only.

The Chef’s Palette Cafe is located at 1650 Southeast 17th Street, Fort Lauderdale Tel:954-760-7957. Hours: Lunch 12:30 – 3:30 pm Thursday & Friday only Dinner 6:30 – 8:30 pm Thursday & Friday only.

Web: www.artinstitutes.edu/fort-lauderdale/about/chefs-palette-restaurant.aspx

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