Bistro serves royal treat

A warm and inviting setting welcomed me as I walked into Bistro ProVare at Jefferson State Community College Culinary and Hospitality Institute.

The bistro offers a pristine version of modern European style in mood-lifting colors and tables covered with crisp white linen. Flames licked in the kitchen’s open oven. A smiling covey of budding chefs wore white, catering to my every whim as though I was a princess.

My server, an advanced student, brought out tiny corn muffins that tickled my taste buds, pairing well with steaming lentil soup.

Chef Jason Bierley stopped to chat. For the past three years he’s been the catering coordinator for Jefferson State’s multiple campuses, and shares his knowledge with students.

“Business people can have a fine lunch with us, and be out in an hour,” said Bierly. “They like coming to this unique environment.”

My server arrived with fresh rolls, piping hot. I noted nearly a dozen students working methodically. Two were folding linen napkins in a precise way to provide added flair with certain courses.

Program Director Chef Joseph Mitchell stopped for a visit on his way to class. “Students finishing our programs have a good understanding of what it takes to run a restaurant. We’re able to create the environment, and control the learning process,” he said.

My entree arrived: potato gnocchi (pronounced no-key) smothered in a fresh tomato basil sauce, with roasted zucchini, cherry tomatoes, kalamata olives and parmesan. Every menu item is made fresh, and gracefully served. The tasty potato gnocchi was satisfying without its usual Italian sausage.

The dessert, a Granny Smith apple and almond bread pudding served with cinnamon crme anglaise and caramel sauce, was pretty as an English garden. A handful of berries and swirl of whipped cream topped this dish. “Surely I’m dreaming,” I thought, sipping fragrant hot tea and watching flames dance in the kitchen’s open oven. Pleased students beamed back at me.

Bistro ProVare is a restaurant and a classroom. It’s student-operated start to finish, under supervision of faculty and staff. You’ll enjoy the food, hospitality and ambience. Its schedule follows the school holidays, closing for a break Dec. 10, and reopening Jan. 20. They are open Monday through Thursday 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m.

For reservations, call 983-5214. See Jeffstateonline.com/chi for more information, course offerings, degree programs and tours.

Gladys Hodge Sherrer can be reached by e–mail at gsherrer@hotmail.com.