ODESSA, Texas (KMID/KPEJ)- Odessa College is cooking up something new and is inviting the community to be a part of the fun. O’Cuisine is a fine dining experience open to the public two days a week; it’s a chance for locals to try delicious food served up by culinary students who are using the restaurant to practice the things they’ve learned in class.
“With O’Cuisine what we’ve done is say oh, this is a class…you’re going to serve and cook and then…create a menu because that’s what we do in the industry…now you have to serve guests and you have to problem solve. So when we started O’Cuisine, really restarted, we wanted to up the game so the tables now have nice tablecloths and there’s a certain way the table is set, we actually spent two weeks simply training on how to take an order, how to resolve problems and make sure our guests are being taken care of very well, and then back here in the kitchen we have it set up as close as we can to a real live kitchen experience. They have to prep, they have to look at what food they have, order food, if needed, and then prep it and then at the end of the day if something doesn’t sell can we use it again, or do we have to make more? So, there’s time management, there’s collaboration, there’s teamwork and then what you see out there on the plate is a big deal to me and everybody,” said Culinary Director Dwight Bowman.
The students behind the food said they are excited to be learning and creating delicious foods all while gaining valuable experience.
“Everybody learns differently,” said Intern and O’Cuisine Manager, Chris Ticey. “You can read about anything, but the hands-on experience gives everyone a chance to improve their social skills, talk with people, actually see (the) food going out, being proud of it.”
Ticey said he went back to school in his 40s and he’s proud of the things he’s learned, especially when it comes to pampering guests.
“I love to cook, but I also love the front of the house, I love working with the people. I’m not gonna treat you like a guest, I’m gonna treat you like family…show you that hospitality and…you’re going to be smiling when you leave, guaranteed,” he said.
Student Camy Mays said if you visit the restaurant, you’ll be pleased with the food on your plate.
“All of our food is homemade, and we make it from scratch. We put a lot of love into our food and our hospitality is amazing,” she said.
While the goal of the restaurant is customer satisfaction, the goal of the class is equipping students with real world experience that will one day help them in the workplace.
“Being able to create our own dishes allows us to know for future…if you’re planning to open a restaurant, you’re able to make your own items…it’s taught us a lot,” said student Aidan Harens.
Bowman agreed and said many of his students have already moved on to jobs in restaurant management with the experience they gained at Odessa College.
“You can go in as a lead chef or a sous chef…we have students who have gone through the program…a gentleman in San Antonio that is the assistant manager ofa property. I have a guy in Houston that us a lead cook, about to be a sous chef,” he said.
Locally, Bowman said several students have gone on to manage popular restaurants and bakeries, and their success is a great source of pride.
“What it means to me to see all these kids having a good time learning, working, putting out great food it just like, my wife and I never had children, so I consider these all my kids, and it just warms my heart to see these guys succeed and be happy and then see the expression on peoples face when they walk out and go ‘wow’. It’s like I’m a proud dad now.”
Odessa College is also on the cusp of launching a Bachelors program in hospitality management.
“The big need we saw around here was, hotels came to us and said we need some people that are trained in cooking, but they also need to be able to manage the front of house…manage people,” Bowman said.
If you’d like to learn more about the culinary program, visit this website. Or, if you’d like to make a reservation and experience O’Cuisine for yourself, send an email to make a restaurant. The dining room is open every Tuesday and Thursday from 11:00 to 1:00.