Why a Student-Operated Restaurant Is the Best Culinary Skills Practice

Posted on March 26, 2019

Culinary Student Run Restaurant


For all its sophistication and creative flair, at its core, culinary arts is a practical field. Learning requires culinary skills practice and working in the field requires hands-on experience. Because of this, after graduation, many students find themselves battling with requirements for two years or more experience for an entry-level position in a restaurant. The problem is, if you’ve only just graduated, where would that experience come from?

This dilemma is not unique to the culinary arts. In fact, graduates from other fields, such as business or tech, face the same problem. One of the best culinary school techniques that solves this problem is allowing students to gain real-life experience at a campus-operated business. In short, some culinary art schools have created a culinary student restaurant. If you’re interested in applying to a culinary arts program, here are just some of the many reasons you should enroll in a school that offers a student-operated restaurant.

Learn to Be a Team Player

Often times, classroom learning requires making an entire meal or dish on your own. However, this isn’t how it works in larger kitchens, especially for busy, high-end restaurants. Every person serves a specific role and you must all work together to ensure all objectives are completed on time. In a commercial kitchen, working efficiently as a team keeps food quality high and delivery delays low. It’s also important to remember that servers and other workers form part of this team, too.

Withstand Rejection

Some instructors are hard to please. Customers can often be far worse. There is always that one customer who may send the dish back a few times because something was too salty or too sweet or the steak was too dry for medium rare. It is important to gain the opportunity to withstand rejection and criticism while still learning, so you are well-prepared for picky eaters in the real world.

Work Under Pressure

In a classroom setting, you may have a specific time to finish a meal or dish. This certainly feels like high-pressure, especially in the beginning. However, in the real world, when the waiter is calling out multiple dishes and coming back every few minutes to add more orders and ask the status on the former — that is real pressure. Every successful chef needs to know how to work through peak demand times, whether he’s working at a popular food truck or a five-star restaurant.

Identify Strengths and Weaknesses

The best time to identify your strengths and weaknesses is when time is limited. What dishes can you whip up the fastest? What dishes do you struggle with? What two dishes do you get confused about if the waiter calls them out too close together? What recipes do you struggle to remember when the pressure is on? By identifying these in a real-world setting, you can remedy these in a classroom with the help of your instructor.

Make Supervised Mistakes

It’s human nature to prefer that your mistakes go unseen. However, when you’re learning, the sooner an instructor spots the error, the sooner the instructor can point you down the right path. Supervised mistakes are also easier to correct. What if you don’t spot the mistake yourself? Thus, having an instructor present helps to ensure quality control. This can make criticism a quick correction, instead of a sick or angry customer. At a student-run restaurant, you’ll get valuable on-the-job feedback before entering the culinary industry on your own.

Easier to Land a Job

Gaining all this experience at school before you land a job makes you a much more attractive candidate to an employer. If the restaurant your school creates is particularly well-known or well-respected, then even better. Not only can you put the time working at the restaurant on your resume, but provided you gave that working experience your best shot, you may also receive a letter of recommendation from your instructor.

Choosing the Right Culinary Arts Program

Your ability to truly realize all the benefits listed above will either be helped or hindered by the quality of the culinary program you enroll in.

Oregon Culinary Institute is the only culinary school that is locally owned and operated in Portland. One of the features we are most proud of at OCI is our student-run, fine-dining restaurant.

Before applying for the school, why not drop by the restaurant and see firsthand how well our students are doing? Then, if you like what you see — or taste — contact us for more information on how to get started.

Culinary Artistry Students visit NWREC

Posted on August 10, 2018

When you think of Oregon State University (OSU) the last thing that probably comes to mind is a farm that spans dozens of acres in the middle of Aurora, Oregon.

But that’s where you’ll find one of the OSU’s extension sites, North Willamette Research and Extension Center (NWREC).

It’s also where Culinary Artistry students nearing the end of their 2nd term caught a glimpse and learned about crops NWREC boasts, and how studies performed at the site affect agriculture production in the years to come.

During the length of the field trip students were introduced to dozens of different species of crops including strawberries, blueberries, kiwis, lettuces, tomatoes, and quinoa.

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The quinoa area is where the field trip was kicked off.

Scientists, farmers and students are among the personnel on the property. They keep the show, or in this case, the farm, running.

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After observing the quinoa portion of the farm, students were introduced to the site’s IR-4 Pesticide Registration Research Program.

Oregon’s only research program that collects residue from controlled crops then uses that data along with new chemistry to make sure certain residues are okay and don’t cause health issues.

The IR-4 program is among many of the reasons people from all over the world visit NWREC.

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The property will peak anyone's curiosity even if they're foreign to farming. From controlled beehives for berry pollination to top of the line tractors in the field, to recorded sounds mimicking birds of prey to act as a shield for crops, NWREC is an agriculture playground.

And if you don't sign up for a tour, you can still see the center multiple times a year when the team holds "field day". An opportunity for farmers, chefs, plant breeders, and the public to meet and discuss what variety of fruits and vegetables lie in the farm nestled in Aurora's valley.

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美味しい / OISHI (Delicious)

Posted on July 18, 2018

If you ever find yourself at Oregon Health Science University craving Thai, a two-minute walk to a family owned Japanese-Thai restaurant is all it takes to feed your craving. 

Nestled away at the top of Marquam Hill, Oishi Thai serves a wide variety of Asian dishes. Family-owned is an understatement, as this whole joint is completely managed by four people. One of them is 9-years-old and makes one of the best tasting crab puffs Portland has to offer.

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(Nui threw a free block party to celebrate getting her liquor license.)

The owner, Nui, is the ruby jewel of this ship. She not only takes all the orders, cashiers, and bar tends, she is also the chef and hostess. Nui doesn’t speak English too well, but she does her best to get a message across. Customers fall in love with the way Nui admires her guests, filling every request and always remembering their favorite sushi roll.

And for the size of the restaurant, this SW Portland destination has options. With a 6-page menu, any single item is sure to grab your attention. Five types of thick curry, filling appetizers like crab rangoons, and endless ramen options are just a teaser into their menu. However, the sushi rolls take the trophy home. With traditional rolls like the California and Veggie ($3) placed alongside original recipes like the Beauty and the Beast ($6), a half-eel, half-tuna, cucumber and avocado roll drizzled with warm sweet sauce, their sushi is hard to resist.

With a variety of options from different regions of Asia, Nui gets questions often about the blended nature of Oishi. “Is this Japanese or Thai food?”

Nui immigrated from Thailand and brought her two half-Japanese sons with her. She wanted to bring her family’s blended traditions together to create a multi-cultural dining destination, open to all. Her 9-year-old son, Ty Ty, is usually hanging around the property, which shares a humble parking lot with Plaid Pantry. He doesn’t actually work for Nui, but he loves being in the kitchen and practicing his serving. Some may find this to be unprofessional or quirky, but it is a constant reminder to the values of family and togetherness the restaurant upholds. Ty Ty is also a self-taught juggler and loves to entertain guests at Oishi.

Up on the wall sits a giant TV screen, with a slideshow of adorable animals and funny videos constantly playing as background noise. The restaurant is colorful and fun, and Ty Ty’s reading nook offers an area for children to play.

There are a few secrets in Nui’s cookbook that don’t appear on the physical menu, or online anywhere, and she loves to WOW customers with them. Fans of Thai iced tea must try Nui’s tangy and smooth Thai Lime Tea, with lime instead of cream. Nui also serves a fried banana tempura style over soft-serve vanilla ice cream, drizzled with hot fudge and salted caramel. It’s a good thing there’s a hospital nearby.

Jillian Odiorne

Part Time Culinary Student, Full-Time Nanny and Daycare Manager

If it bleeds, it bleeds

Posted on February 14, 2018

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By 2050 the world’s population is going to be around nine billion people. There is nowhere near enough meat to compensate for that huge number. One company is trying to revolutionize the world of plant-based meat. Chefs can agree that creating the most balanced and beautifully made burger is a goal they all strive for. Whether it’s using chicken, beef, beans or tofu, creating the perfect patty is all about flavor. Deep in the heart of Silicon Valley a little startup called Impossible Foods is starting to gain some serious steam. Backed by $250 million dollars in investment money from Singapore-based venture fund Temasek, Bill Gates, Khosla Ventures, and others, Impossible Foods is creating something that we haven’t seen before. The veggie burger market is about to change forever.

The Impossible Foods group has found what they believe to be the essence of what makes meat taste and smell the way it does. Heme is a compound that gives meat its color and metallic taste. Heme is found in the protein called hemoglobin. Impossible Foods has found a way to use hemoglobin from soy plants as a substitute. To begin, beef is heated up to release its aromas. The machine isolates the aroma compounds and gives a fingerprint of how to recreate the smell. A lot of research goes into creating a meat alternative that rivals beef itself. Impossible Foods has proven they can do just that.

With the $250 million dollars raised, Impossible Foods is looking to expand its facility to allow for higher production rates. They are looking to supply over 1000 restaurants with their groundbreaking veggie meat over the next few years. Impossible Foods has made it known that they want to keep the meat in restaurants with professional chefs. The special veggie meat can be found all around the United States. Locally there are 8 restaurants here in Portland that serve the veggie meat that bleeds including Superbite, Jackrabbit and Imperial.

Impossible Foods has created a meat alternative that even the hungriest of meat eaters will eat. I think that what makes a burger so good is its meaty and salty flavor. I’ve tried the bean, tofu and various meat alternatives and been left unsatisfied. The thought of being able to have that salty and meaty flavor and still be conscious of animals is one that intrigues me. As this product becomes more main stream I think there will be a huge decrease in meat consumption. Many people like myself want to be conscious but also want the beef. If this product lives up to its hype, I can assure you that I will be switching to the Impossible Burger meat.



By Jonathon Byers, OCI Culinary Arts Graduate

That Cake is Naked!

Posted on February 14, 2018

When I tell a friend or family member, “I saw the cutest naked cake on Pinterest,” I’m usually met with quizzical looks.

“What’s a naked cake?” they ask.  My reply is usually the description of a multi layered cake with either a minimal to no coat of icing on it, typically decorated with fruit and or flowers and some kind of filling.

Still I’m met with dumbfounded looks of them trying to picture what I am talking about.  Pulling out my phone, I show them a picture.


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[Image Sourcewww.hitched.co.uk]


Their eyes get big and and their mouths open wide. “Ooohhh… yeah,” they say, “I’ve seen those.  I didn’t know it was called a naked cake.”

Yes, it’s a naked cake.  No signs of fondant or buttercream covering up the entire cake.  We get to see the cake in its natural state.  A yummy, fluffy, and airy cake with sweet and smooth filling.

There are two kinds of naked cakes, naked and semi-naked.

The simplistic naked naked cake showcases just the cake, generally white or yellow but can be any other color and flavoring.  It is layered and filled commonly with buttercream and decorated with fresh fruit; berries are the fan favorite because they don’t need to be cut and they look gorgeous whole.  Flowers and herbs also adorn many of these exposed cakes; edible flowers are ideal but not always the choice.  To finish off, each cake is lightly dusted with powdered sugar.


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[Image Sourcebite.co.nz]


Now let’s talk about the semi-naked cake.  This kind of cake receives a minimal coat of frosting, usually described by cake bakers as a “crumb coat.” That usually goes on before fondant or more buttercream is added to hold in any crumbs that could potentially come off while trying to decorate it.

Through the crumb coat the cake and filling are slightly in view, resembling the affect of swiping a paint brush on a canvas with only one stroke where the lines are not defined but blurred.

A naked cake doesn’t always need to be simply decorated with fruit and flowers.  Bakers have started glazing the tops, letting the glaze run down the sides in long soft drips adding effect and texture.  Another texture technique done is piping buttercream in intricate scroll work over the cake.  This adds beauty and detail to the already-bare cake.

One of the benefits of making or buying a naked cake is that they can be cheaper than buying a cake that is completely covered in buttercream or fondant.

Buttercream also tends to melt quicker.  Purchasing a naked cake will ensure the cake will stay intact longer in the warmer months.

Naked cakes aren’t necessarily a new idea but they have become widely popular. Going naked on a bride’s wedding day isn’t always a good idea but when it comes to cake, it might not be a bad idea.



Written by Angel Hugs, OCI Baking & Pastry Graduate