Excellent Taste: LBCC culinary students, faculty create fresh taste and style at Santiam Restaurant in upscale, comfortable setting

Tucked away behind LBCC’s cafeteria is a culinary gem.

Though the recently remodeled restaurant is not very big, floor-to-ceiling windows in LBCC’s Santiam Restaurant overlooking grand old oak trees make the room feel open and bright. “That’s Amore” plays quietly in the background. A new coat of wall paint in gray, bold-framed beer posters, and white table linens over dark wood furniture give the room a modern feel.

“I want the diners to feel like it is an upscale French-style bistro,” said Josh Green, culinary arts faculty and overseer of the restaurant’s latest renovation.

Culinary arts students chat with guests, discreetly replace a lost napkin, and keep the food coming for 30 to 40 lunch patrons from 11 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. Monday through Thursday, serving student-created appetizers, entrees, salads, and desserts that change daily. This full-service a la carte restaurant trains dinner house cooks, wait staff, and restaurant managers under realistic conditions. First-year students train as wait staff while second-year students prepare you a fantastic meal.

“We’re passionate about what we do,” said Todd Ketterman, LBCC culinary arts department chair, who has been with the program for nine years.

Diners are first served an “amuse-bouche,” a complementary bite-sized hors d’oeuvre from the chef. After ordering, buttery, croissant-textured breads with a touch of cheese arrive warm alongside a glass of ice-water flavored with fresh blackberry, kiwi and lime.

This is a place where interesting ingredient combinations happen every day, like the cherry tomato and pappardelle pasta with aged and smoked provolone, mushrooms, fiddlehead ferns, spinach, and char-roasted tomato-basil sauce.

“The food is definitely seasonal with a local feel,” said Ketterman, who uses herbs, greens and edible flowers from LBCC’s student organic farm.

Adventurous and classic appetizer and entree selections on the menu taste wonderful and combine well, and nothing is ordinary. One customer ordered a starter as lunch — sesame and five-spiced seared ahi served with cucumber and radish sprout salad. Beef tenderloin carpaccio and duck pate provide for gourmet appetizer favorites.

Ample portions of entrees such as braised lamb shanks, pan-seared salmon, and grilled pork chops start off familiar and finish with a twist, with a unique sauce or side. A vegetarian entree is always included on the menu, as well as an entree salad option, and a new soup is offered daily.

Green creates the base menu, which remains constant throughout the quarter. With no less than six specials weekly, the other half of the menu is decided each week by student chefs to demonstrate their culinary skill and creativity.

When it comes to creating a menu item, “A lot of experimenting goes into it,” said Alexis Prosper, sous-Santiam manager and second-year student. “It’s a lot of taste and change as you go. We develop the ability to know what’s going to taste great together.”

Save room for dessert, especially bananas foster. Second-year student Kevin Olvera came around tableside and flambeed brown sugar, butter, baby bananas and brandy, and then gave it a personal touch with his own pecan ice cream and pecan brittle.

Entree prices run between $8 and $10, and appetizers average out to around $4. Ketterman said the restaurant just breaks even.

“Being that it is a classroom, we charge enough to just cover our cost of goods. That is why the menu prices are so reasonable. If we were a ‘for profit’ restaurant our menu prices would be closer to what you would find in a regular restaurant — possibly two to three times higher. Any gratuities that are received all to go support the culinary arts co-curricular club,” said Ketterman.

Santiam Restaurant is also open Monday through Thursday from 9:30 to 11 a.m. and is limited to pastries, coffee, and espresso, but who cares when you can have a dignified bowl-sized latte and two straight-from-the-oven pineapple-lime scones, with butter, of course, for under six dollars.

Be sure to leave a good tip.

Additional Information:

Santiam Restaurant
Location: Room 201 of the Calapooia Center on LBCC’s Albany campus.
Cuisine: European, fusion, fine dining
Price Range: Most lunch entrees $8-$12
Serving: Lunch, 11 a.m.-12:15 p.m. Monday-Thursday; coffee, espresso, pastries 9:30-11 a.m. Monday-Thursday
Reservations: Recommended but not required. Phone 541-917-4392
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/LBCCCulinary

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