All The Toys

A fresh salad of greens, pecans and dressing from Table 28

A salad prepared at Table 28. Photo by Jamison Mosley.

The Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management Institute isn’t just a great place for Diamond Chef; it’s an opportunity for budding culinarians to utilize cutting-edge equipment and facilities to engage their imaginations.

The edifice alongside Interstate 30 just northeast of the Pulaski County line is angular, with a host of windows along its top edge. Without even looking at the name, one might think this is a building of technology. In many ways, it is.

On April 19th, seven of Arkansas’ top chefs will face off to see who becomes this year’s Diamond Chef in the tenth celebration of what’s become a top regional culinary competition. The bank of windows that line the largest instructional space in the building provide an intimate view into the actions of each chef in full battle mode while also offering a level of separation that allows them to compete. While hundreds gather to enjoy appetizers crafted by the students and chefs of the University of Arkansas – Pulaski Technical College Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management Institute, these men and women will take those secret ingredients and work their magic, creating edible delights to be examined by an all-star bank of judges.

But those nifty tools — from traditional convection ovens and fryers to blast freezers and even a microgreens cabinet — are accessible every day to those who attend classes at this unique LEED-certified program.

A spacious cooking area at the UA Pulaski Tech Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management Institute

Culinarians have plenty to work with at the Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management Institute.

The Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management Institute, or CAHMI, officially opened on Sept. 24, 2013. The angular building with a common center court was purposely built on an unusual slanted lot at the northeast end of the school’s Little Rock campus. Among its key features are a butchery, pastry lab, baking lab, hotel management lab, community kitchen and a popular celebrity chef kitchen with full audio-visual accompaniment. Classes are held year-round within, not just for culinary arts students but for those who wish to take occasional cooking classes in the evening, for high school students from certain districts who have an interest in the culinary arts and for 3D program participants — developmentally disabled adults who come to the school to achieve post-secondary success and certifications.

Traditional schools usually lack the sort of tools available to these culinarians. Learning how to handle a 3-foot-wide wok over an open flame, a large deli slicer or a meat saw can widen the possibilities for a student trained in these culinary arts, enabling him or her to seek a broader range of employment. Working with a 30-inch skillet or a 40-gallon kettle means being at ease with larger catering and hotel operations. Having a blast chiller available means instructors can work with students to create broths and stocks within a single instructional period. A large dough sheeter allows culinarians to craft multiple pastries in shorter fashion, in a way they may encounter working in a commercial bakery.

It’s fun to watch professional chefs utilize these sorts of tools in competition – that’s a great deal of the appeal of long-running television programs such as Iron Chef and Chopped. Having them available to up-and-coming hopefuls who want to continue the art of culinary proficiency in the workforce is of even greater interest.

The celebrity chef kitchen at the Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management Institute in Little Rock

The facilities at CAHMI include a very popular celebrity chef kitchen, equipped to allow large audiences. Photo by Kat Robinson.

When you go, be sure to notice:

• Arkansas’ only educationally certified bartending program, with a full lab dedicated to the skill of creating cocktails.

• A full-scale beer and wine lab complete with wine cellar.

• The state’s premier hotel lab, which includes a full front desk, bedroom and bath open for instructional use (don’t worry – the restroom is expressly not to be utilized for personal use).

• The celebrity kitchen, complete with auditorium-style seating, overhead screens and audio resources — a great place to watch the best and brightest in Arkansas cuisine shine.

The Diamond Chef competition takes place on April 19 beginning at 6 p.m. at the UA-PTC Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management Institute. Tickets are $150; the proceeds go toward scholarships for culinary and hospitality students.

If you can’t attend this year’s Diamond Chef competition or want to experience more, consider attending one of the many meals prepared by Pulaski Tech students throughout the year. Food Prep IV dinners are served for a $20 donation most Tuesdays and Thursdays, while Food Prep III lunches are served for a $15 donation and occur on a number of Wednesdays and Fridays. For more information or reservations, please call Somerly Mustin at 501-812-2860 or email smustin@uaptc.edu.

Casey Copeland

Casey Copeland

What’s your favorite dish to make? To eat?
I don’t have a favorite dish to cook, per se, but I do enjoy combining my Southern roots with Hispanic and Asian cuisine. I love to eat all food.

Secret weapon spice/ingredient/
technique?
My secret weapon is a culmination of all the flavor profiles and techniques that I learned to combine over my whole career.

You have dinner guests coming in 30 minutes, what do you make?
Something extraordinarily delicious with whatever ingredients I have on hand!

What is your go-to midnight snack?
Chips & Salsa or French Onion Dip.

You have $5 and a road trip ahead. What snack do you get at the gas station?
A hot dog with mustard and a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos.

What’s your guilty food pleasure?
Potato chips, like the whole family size bag in one sitting.

What is the best cooking advice anyone has ever given you?
Be true to yourself, and always stay humble. Soak up as much knowledge from any chef that knows something you don’t. Don’t ever think you know it all.

Beer, bourbon or wine?
Hands down, bourbon any day.

Barbecue or fried chicken?
Depends on the mood I’m in, because they are equally amazing!

Biscuits or cornbread?
Cornbread, for sure.

Coby Smith

Coby Smith

What’s your favorite dish to make? To eat?
One of my favorite dishes to make is Homemade Chicken and Dumplings, it happens to be my son Keller’s favorites to eat. My favorite dish to eat is a perfectly seared strip steak, baked potato, and any fresh vegetable.

Secret weapon spice/ingredient/technique?
My secret weapon when cooking is treating each individual ingredient as if they were grown/raised by the best farmers in Arkansas.

You have dinner guests coming in 30 minutes, what do you make?
If I have dinner guests coming in 30 minutes, I would make them Grilled Steak Fajitas with Onions and Peppers and homemade guacamole.

What is your go-to midnight snack?
My go-to midnight snack is anything sweet, usually Oreos and milk.

You have $5 and a road trip ahead. What snack do you get at the gas station?
My snack from the gas station would
be a Mountain Dew Kickstart and Snickers.

What’s your guilty food pleasure?
My guilty food pleasure is Popeye’s fried chicken.

What is the best cooking advice anyone has ever given you?
Season all of your food from start to finish. Seasoning in stages brings the most out of your ingredients and gives you the most flavor.

Beer, bourbon or wine?
I love a good cold beer.

Barbecue or fried chicken?
Fried chicken, always fried chicken.

Biscuits or cornbread?
Nothing better than homemade biscuits!

Jamie McAfee

Jamie McAffee

What’s your favorite dish to make? To eat?
Family-style Italian food.

Secret weapon spice/ingredient/technique?
Salt and pepper and a sharp knife.

You have dinner guests coming in 30 minutes, what do you make?
A 2-inch Ribeye cooked in a black iron skillet with a soaked salad.

What is your go-to midnight snack?
Roasted in shell peanuts and V8 over crushed ice.

You have $5 and a road trip ahead. What snack do you get at the gas station?
Pork crackling.

What’s your guilty food pleasure?
Ice cream.

What is the best cooking advice anyone has ever given you?
Prep, prep and prep.

Beer, bourbon or wine?
Bourbon.

Barbecue or fried chicken?
Barbecue.

Biscuits or cornbread?
Cornbread.

Jordan Davis

Jordan Davis

What’s your favorite dish to make? To eat?
My favorite dish to make changes weekly. I love the amount of freedom we have at Chenal to source any type of food that we want, so every week is a new challenge to come up with a dish that people will remember and enjoy. Eating is a whole different story, I love anything from tacos to my mom’s meatloaf!

Secret weapon spice/ingredient/technique?
As far as a secret ingredient or spice, I can’t say that I have one. Knife skills, proper cooking techniques and appropriate seasonings and flavors never go out of style.

You have dinner guests coming in 30 minutes, what do you make?
If I have guests coming in thirty minutes, I would make a quick taco out of whatever I have in the fridge with guacamole and some sort of salsa and adult beverages.

What is your go-to midnight snack?
My go-to midnight snack would be some sort of chips, whether it’s Nacho Cheese Doritos or the Kettle Cooked Dill Pickle

You have $5 and a road trip ahead. What snack do you get at the gas station?
Red Bull and smoked almonds

What’s your guilty food pleasure?
My guilty food pleasure has to be the Elvis Presley Memorial Platter from Chuy’s. It’s a mountain of deliciousness!

What is the best cooking advice anyone has ever given you?
Never let up, stay passionate about your craft and love the grind. Also, season EVERYTHING!

Beer, bourbon or wine?
Yes, please! (If I can only choose one I would have to go with wine)

Barbecue or fried chicken?
Barbecue.

Biscuits or cornbread?
Cornbread.

Mary Beth Ringgold

Mary Beth Ringgold

What’s your favorite dish to make? To eat?
Truly, I love all foods related to the Thanksgiving meal. I enjoy the turkey and all that it provides afterwards. But, I also enjoy preparing seafoods in rich broths and anything that is made better by grilling.

Secret weapon spice/ingredient/technique?
Not sure that it is a big secret but, I always have a variety of fresh herbs at the restaurants and at my home. I grow a tremendous variety of herbs in the spring and summer. And, even in the winter, I buy fresh herbs and keep them in water on my window ledge. I also love cooking with leeks and shallots and always have homemade stocks in the freezer. I use a minimal amount of dry spices

You have dinner guests coming in 30 minutes, what do you make?
30 minutes is tight. I will start with a nice salad with a quick vinaigrette. Then, I will have to go to the grill with fish, seafood or steaks, fresh grilled vegetables and some quick-roasted garlic potatoes. I may have to cheat for dessert and call Capers for a homemade Coconut Cream Pie. We make them every day and they are great.

What is your go-to midnight snack?
Popcorn… treated with a little fresh thyme and rosemary, shredded parmesan cheese and a dash of Louisiana Hot Sauce.

You have $5 and a road trip ahead. What snack do you get at the gas station?
A diet Coke and the best beef jerky option (maybe a Reese’s cup if I indulge)

What’s your guilty food pleasure?
“What you give for what you get guilt”; Foie Gras or Caviar. Health guilt; a rich prime ribeye … But, I don’t eat a lot of it. Just need a few bites to scratch the itch.

What is the best cooking advice anyone has ever given you?
When in doubt, cook simply.

Beer, bourbon or wine?
Wine.

Barbecue or fried chicken?
At home: barbecued. On the road: fried

Biscuits or cornbread?
Cornbread.

Brandon Douglas

Brandon Douglas

What’s your favorite dish to make? To eat?
Breakfast for my sons Maddox and Liam. Tacos… good, authentic tacos.

Secret weapon spice/ingredient/technique?
I can’t tell you that!

You have dinner guests coming in 30 minutes, what do you make?
Anything with pasta.

What is your go-to midnight snack?
Hummus or peanut butter.

You have $5 and a road trip ahead. What snack do you get at the gas station?
“Good” beef jerky, corn nuggets, water and Double Bubble.

What’s your guilty food pleasure?
Brownies.

What is the best cooking advice anyone has ever given you?
“Good is good, bad is bad.” – Paul Novicky

Beer, bourbon or wine?
I don’t drink, but I would cook with either… Beer and brats, bourbon and bread puddin’ and wine… anytime.

Barbecue or fried chicken?
Barbecue.

Biscuits or cornbread?
That’s maybe the hardest question I have ever been asked. Is there a biscuit-cornbread?

Joseph Salguiero

Joseph Salguiero

What’s your favorite dish to make? To eat?
I enjoy making a good steak au poive with French fries.

Secret weapon spice/ingredient/technique?
Smoked chili salt and Togarashi chili.

You have dinner guests coming in 30 minutes, what do you make?
If the cabinets and fridge are full, sky’s the limit. Stuffed chicken with smoked mozzarella, sundried tomatoes, sauté escarole, parmesan potatoes and merlot basil sauce.

What is your go-to midnight snack?
Taco Bueno.

You have $5 and a road trip ahead. What snack do you get at the gas station?
Orange or kiwi Red Bull and buttered popcorn.

What’s your guilty food pleasure?
Extra-large fully loaded pizza.

What is the best cooking advice anyone has ever given you?
Cook from your heart, do not take short cuts. The extra steps will determine the quality, satisfaction and gratification of the dish.

Beer, bourbon or wine?
Wine and tequila!

Barbecue or fried chicken?
I prefer fried, but I do like good barbecue chicken, also.

Biscuits or cornbread?
Cornbread, but more on the gourmet side. Sweet and spicy.

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