OSUIT Offers Summer Culinary Classes for the Food Enthusiast

OSUIT Offers Summer Culinary Classes for the Food Enthusiast

Dennis Spielman
OSUIT Offers Summer Culinary Classes for the Food Enthusiast

 Originally published in Uncovering Oklahoma |  Whether you’re a chef managing our own restaurant kitchen or just have a passion for cooking in your home kitchen, OSU Institute of Technology’s School of Culinary Arts is offering several workshops and classes this summer to fit your level of food expertise.

For those food enthusiasts who want to learn more about preparing meals in the farm-to-table style while also gaining knowledge about how to pair wines with those meals, Chef Brenda Nimmo and Celia Melson will offer three different courses in their Food and Wine Experience series in July and August.

Around that same time this summer, Chef Bill Leib will conduct three two-day workshops for professional chefs and cooks on modern cuisine and cooking techniques and how those techniques can be applied to that restaurant’s menu.

Both sets of classes will take place on the OSUIT campus and utilize the culinary school’s professional-grade kitchens and lab spaces. It’s a chance for home cooks and professional chefs alike to see what OSUIT’s Culinary program has to offer.

Food and Wine Experience

Nimmo and Melson said they have been developing their classes on food preparation and wine pairings since last year.

The three classes are: Chicken Trussing and Beyond July 21; Pork- The Whole Hog July 28; and Lamb- Beyond Chops Aug. 3.

Each class will include a bite-sized hors d’oeuvre, lessons on butchering, tips to improve knife skills, plate presentation techniques, wine education and pairing and family-style dinner with the class. Participants will also leave with an OSUIT apron, recipe handouts and a Certificate of Completion.

The classes, which can accommodate about 12 to 15 people, begin at 3 p.m. and wrap up at 8 p.m. The cost is $200 per class or $500 for all three classes. People can enroll in one or more classes through July 14, as space permits.

This is the first time in recent memory that OSUIT is offering these types of classes to the general public.

“We really want it to be an experience,” said Melson, who will conduct the wine-pairing portion of each class. “We have a big emphasis on farm-to-table. The produce will be locally sourced as much as possible.”

“Craft butchering is coming back. I think people are interested in how to best utilize the whole animal so as little as possible goes to waste.”Nimmo, who teaches the meat fabrication, aka, butchering, will be showing participants how to properly break down chicken, pork and lamb and the best techniques for preparing different cuts of meat. The classes will also cover seasonal produce and side dishes that best accompany the meat entrée.

“Craft butchering is coming back. I think people are interested in how to best utilize the whole animal so as little as possible goes to waste,” she said. “We want them to have fun, we want it to be enjoyable.”

The best part is those in the class gets to eat what they prepare.

“We’ll feed them whatever they prepare,” Melson said. “It’s also a chance to show off OSUIT’s kitchens and our program to potential students.”

For more information about the Food and Wine Experience courses or to enroll, contact Denise Wise at 918.293.5030 or email denise.wise@okstate.edu.

Modern Cuisine

The best chefs never stop learning, Leib said, but it can be a challenge, so that’s why he wanted to offer workshops on modern cuisine to professional cooks and chefs in the area.

“The more you’re working in your restaurant, the less time you have to get out and see what’s going on,” he said. “In the last 10 years, the industry has changed. Cuisine changes, plating changes, food preference changes. You’ve got to keep learning and keep pushing yourself.”

Leib will offer the same two-day workshop of modern cuisine three times this summer: July 13 and 14; July 27 and 28; and Aug. 10 and 11. The classes meet from 8 a.m., to 4:30 p.m., each day.

The cost of the workshop is $300 and includes all food materials, breakfast and lunch each day, printed recipes and an OSUIT apron. Participants will need to bring kitchen attire and knives set as well as take care of their own travel expenses and lodging, if needed.

Each workshop can accommodate about 10 people and spots are filling up fast.

Leib said there aren’t a lot of workshops like this offered in Oklahoma.

“OSUIT’s Culinary program is one of the few kitchens in the state that has the equipment to do these modern techniques.”“You see a lot more in major metropolitan areas. In California or New York, a workshop like this can cost $1,000,” he said. “OSUIT’s Culinary program is one of the few kitchens in the state that has the equipment to do these modern techniques.”

Some of the modern techniques and equipment he will be teaching are things participants may not be familiar with, Leib said.

“In modern cuisine we’re using equipment typically used in science labs and using them in the kitchen. A centrifuge isn’t new to science, but it is new in a kitchen,” he said. “We’re using technology to better what we do, to help better the industry locally. You don’t have to make major changes to implement some of these things in their kitchens.”

For more information about the Modern Cuisine workshops or to enroll, contact Chef Bill Leib at bill.leib@okstate.edu. culinaryworkshop2RZ

To talk more about the programs, I have Culinary Arts Instructors, Chef Brenda Nimmo and Celia Melson.

How did you become interested in being a chef?

BRENDA NIMMO: My life long journey of becoming a chef came through the OSUIT culinary program. I was not as interested in traditional college classes on my path to a degree. I decided instead to follow my passion for cooking and began working in local Tulsa and Oklahoma City restaurant kitchens. I endeavored to learn the trade from the working chefs of Oklahoma. I honed my culinary skills and became a voracious cookbook reader. I was also inspired by the Great Chef series of cooking shows. They provided me a glimpse of true culinary technique. Not to expose my age but this was pre-Food Network days. In the kitchen, I became hooked on the exhilaration of a hectic kitchen service. I learned the value of mise en place, correct procedure, speed and sense of urgency. I admired the work ethic, passion and attention to detail of all my coworkers and the ability of my chef to orchestrate the process. I knew this industry was for me. I was fortunate to be mentored from a young cook to an experienced chef by people in the industry that still care about providing great food using proper technique.

Through my work and culinary school I was exposed to a variety of fresh ingredients. Ones I had only read about like foie gras and wild caught salmon. I learned by doing. A young cook has to work their way up from toasting and peeling hazelnuts for a venison dish before they are ever allowed to butcher or cook the venison. I learned to appreciate the flavor of real ingredients by working and participating in special wine dinner events with menus created by renowned chef Stephen Pyles and Jean Louis Palladin. I was taught many foundations of cooking but I wanted to learn more. My culinary journey took me from working in Tulsa and OKC to OSUIT as a student and back to working in Tulsa. A few years ago, I was more than delighted to return to Okmulgee and the OSUIT culinary program. I am now part of a tremendous team of faculty that will share our passion and knowledge with the next generation of culinarians.

CELIA MELSON: Well, I don’t really consider myself a chef. In the culinary world that title is earned after years and much sweat in the kitchen. My career has been a slightly different one. I’ve always had a passion for food and entertaining. About 15 years ago, I began my career in the hospitality industry working for a small restaurant in high school. It was such a small operation, I got to do a little of everything. From hosting and cashiering to even cooking in the back. It was my first taste of the industry, and I was hooked on serving people and making them happy through food and a memorable dining experience. I loved it. In college I decided to study Restaurant, Hotel, and institutional management at Texas Tech University.

During my undergraduate years, I had the opportunity to study abroad at a Culinary School in Florence, Italy. While I was really there to explore the culture and pursue my love of food, I ended up leaving with a passion for the wine industry. As soon as I returned, I began to pursue that direction of my career working for wineries. During graduate school, and the few years following I worked my way up to managing the hospitality aspects of a boutique winery. Ultimately, I desired to relocate a little closer to family, and found a job teaching what I am most passionate about to individuals of all backgrounds and experiences at OSUIT. I’ve been here for nearly four years now, and I can’t imagine doing anything else.

How easy is the class to newcomers?

“All that is required is a desire to learn.”BRENDA NIMMO: All that is required is a desire to learn. For example, in the first session, all students will have the opportunity to make fresh pasta and to fabricate a chicken. The students will then proceed as a team to create a meal based on our seasonal menu and recipes. In addition a few OSUIT culinary students have volunteered to be involved for assistance as necessary.

CELIA MELSON: This class is designed for the culinary newcomer. The person who loves hosting dinner parties or preparing lovely meals for their friends and family is our ideal student. Chef Nimmo and I will focus on beginner’s techniques and principles for both food and wine. We call it a “food enthusiast” course.

What will be the most challenging aspect in the class?

BRENDA NIMMO: Our class format will be to demonstrate, encourage and assist students in creating their own Food and Wine Experience. It will push the learners beyond a passive cooking demonstration.

CELIA MELSON: Come prepared to be on your feet raring to go from the beginning. We will jump right in and work all afternoon. Of course, we will have a few “special” breaks like the one we will demonstrate our espresso machine and enjoy the fruits of our labor with a family style meal at the end.


What’s the best part about taking your class?

BRENDA NIMMO: We provide recipes, tools, fresh ingredients, knives, pans and the knowledge to succeed. If all goes according to plan the best part will be the food and wine pairings at the culmination of class. What could be better than that?

“This class will be a fun and exciting opportunity to grow your culinary experience and hang out with others who enjoy doing the same thing.”CELIA MELSON: You will get a glimpse of our program. This program has been around since 1946, and we are considered one of the top programs in the state do to our innovative practices and continual growth toward the latest trends and are constantly working toward integrating the best practices and methods to deliver that information to our students. Whether they are only here for a few days, or if they complete our Associate’s program we pride ourselves on being student-centered. This class will be a fun and exciting opportunity to grow your culinary experience and hang out with others who enjoy doing the same thing.

Anything else you want people to know about your class?

BRENDA NIMMO: Above all, we want this class to be enjoyable. We ask that everyone bring a passion for learning along with a spirit of culinary adventure.