Young Chefs Rediscover Dishes from the ‘70s

June 26, 2017 - Culinary Arts

AACA Dining Room

The tables were turned in the Dining Lab of the American Academy of Culinary Arts (AACA).

Instead of moms and dads making bacon and eggs the morning of June 24, it was sons and daughters making beef carpaccio salad topped with a soft cooked, then deep fried egg for their families and loved ones at the Senior Luncheon.

Senior Luncheon is the culmination of PTC’s associate degree program in culinary arts and a scrumptious showcase of the techniques and fundamentals acquired throughout the hands-on program. 

AACA Senior Luncheon

The first dish out of AACA’s recently designated Chaîne des Rôtisseurs kitchen was Beef Carpaccio Salad.  One honored guest looked suspiciously at the thin slice of rare beef on her plate as she carried it back to her table.

“I don’t know about this,” she said.  “That’s awfully red.”

Moments later her opinion had taken an about face.  “Not bad.  I guess there’s a first time for everything,” she said as she enjoyed the dish.

At another table, the parents of one of the graduating culinarians compared notes as they tasted the salad.  One said, “I love these flavors, the dressing on the salad, the deep fried egg, and the cracker. They all work so well.”

The other simply said, “Really tasty.”

Moms and Dads; brothers and sisters; boyfriends, girlfriends, significant others and children strolled in and out of the kitchens watching the young culinarians proudly prepare and dress their plates. It was a tasty thank-you for the families who had supported their decision to pursue an AACA education in the hopes of becoming the next great American chef.

And, by the looks on the faces of those consuming the plates presented at the Senior Luncheon, these July 2017 graduates have made great strides toward that goal.

“This event reassures our entire faculty team that this process works,” said Chef Norman P. Hart, AACA’s Chef Director. “This solidifies for us that the fundamentals are being taught, and the curriculum is sound.

AACA Tomatoes and Ahi Tuna

“These plates are outstanding. They would be high level in any restaurant in the country, in New York, in LA, in Chicago.”

That ‘70s Menu

On the menu for the AACA Senior Luncheon for the graduating class of 2017 were dishes reminiscence of the ‘70s.

  1. Salad Station: Beef Carpaccio Salad 
    Thinly sliced tenderloin of beef paired with greens and a soft-cooked egg
  2. Appetizer Station: Tomatoes and Ahi Tuna 
    Tuna-stuffed tomatoes, served with avocado and yogurt
  3. Entrée Station: Sautéed Veal Involtini 
    Small bites of veal stuffed with pancetta, cheese and herbs, served with Arugala bowties and grilled white asparagus 
  4. Vegetarian Entrée Station: Smoked Tofu 
    Smoked tofu served with risotto, blistered corn and beet trio
  5. Dessert Station: Assortment of Mini Cheesecakes
    4 bite-size cheesecakes: New York style, peanut butter and jelly, coconut lime, and Boston cream

Culinary Building Blocks

Chef Hart explained the importance of building a menu, one of the fundamentals of PTC’s AACA culinary program.

“What we have this morning is a balanced menu.  Each course flows into the next course and that’s the hallmark of a good menu,” he said.

A table outside the Dining Lab displayed the courses for the luncheon’s menu.  As Chef Hart detailed the dishes to a group of guests, he explained how the students independently developed their course, but worked in concert with one another to create the composite menu.

Balanced and Progressive

“That is an important skill to teach young culinarians,” he said. Some of the students had to adapt their dish or its method of preparation to make sure that there was no repetition of ingredients, that the flavors in one course flowed to the next and progressed harmoniously as you move through the meal.” 

While one young guest happily chowed down on his dish of unadorned pasta, prepared last minute at special request for a finicky palate, the more adventurous diners relished their dining experience.

A feeling of amazement and obvious satisfaction simmered in the room.  Many couldn’t believe they were enjoying dishes they never previously considered ordering.

“Tofu? Am I really enjoying this,” pondered one older gentleman.   Maybe it was the blistered corn and risotto and the trio of beets prepared three different ways that accompanied that curious triangle of bean curd.

Regardless of what made is delicious, it was.

“We have one of the best culinary programs in the country,” stated Chef Hart.  “That’s what I believe and what I’ve been told. 

“The order in the AACA kitchens, the repetition of the program, the precise encouragement of the instructors, it all shows on a day like today.”

Notes of interest:

  • It took a bottle of wine to create 1.5 quarts of Burgundy sauce for the veal entrée.
  • Tofu in the United States is generally bland, unlike the tofu you would taste in Asia.
  • Stuffed tomatoes were popular in the early ‘70s.
  • Meat stuffed with other meat was chic in the '70s.
  • Involtini is an Italian word used to describe "small bundles" of food.
  • The trio of beets included pickled candy cane beets, roasted red beets, and butter poached yellow beets

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Offering career-focused education since 1946, Pittsburgh Technical College (formerly Pittsburgh Technical Institute (PTI)) offers degree and certificate programs in more than 30 areas. Its 180-acre campus is home to the American Academy of Culinary Arts, the Energy Technology Center, the Nursing Simulation Center, and many hands-on specialty labs. PTC students can take advantage of online course offerings, on-campus residence halls, student activities, intramural programs and community service programs. PTC is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.


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