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Sage Student Bistro

Learning Made Delicious


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Great ideas often have humble beginnings.  The casual chat over coffee with a friend that leads to the opening of a new business.  The gathering of green thumbs that develops into a community garden.  Wishful thinking made vocal among classmates that turns into a wildly successful student bistro. 



This last example is the unlikely origin of Sage Student Bistro at Metropolitan Community College's Institute for the Culinary Arts. According to Brian O'Malley, chef-instructor at the Institute for the Culinary Arts, Sage Student Bistro is actually a composite of classes culinary students are required to take to obtain their degree.  "Sage...started with students trying to come up with a way to rename the class they were in so that the next quarters students would have a better concept of what they were walking into," he explains.

Sage affords students the opportunity to learn in a guest-centered environment.  O'Malley describes it as a "free-wheelin', collaborative, studio environment."  Chemistry majors have their laboratory, art majors have their studios and culinary students have Sage.

Sage opened in 2005.  Since then over 200 students in the culinary arts, baking and pastry programs have tested their knowledge in the pressure cooker environment of a restaurant.  Five different classes provide 30 students with a customer-based experience-Fine Dining, Table Service, Plated Desserts, Garde Manger, and Student Manager.  Students do not sign up for these classes until they are close to graduation, in the last two quarters of the program.  Often, it is the only course work left in their studies.

The entire kitchen is populated by students.  "It is decidedly not an internship," O'Malley specifies.  "It is a class meant to prepare [students] for one." Students are engaged in every aspect of the bistros service, from menu writing to checking reservations, from the prep line to the pastries. 

"Sage...started with students trying to come up with a way to rename the class they were in so that the next quarters students would have a better concept of what they were walking into."

Brian O'Malley

Tyler Ratigan is a Culinary Arts student who participated in the Sage Student Bistro experience during the winter quarter.  He says his time at Sage exposed him to foods he never otherwise would have encountered: "It put a worldly experience on foods in general.  I had never tried or prepared sweetbreads [the thymus gland of a cow] or fois gras before."


"I learned simpler, more efficient ways of preparing meat," he continues, like de-veining shrimp with a bamboo skewer so as to leave the body fully intact or frenching a rack of lamb.  Ratigan says he take more pride in his work due to his time at Sage Student Bistro

The dinner menu has three basic components: a "static menu", a prix fixe menu, and a dessert menu.  Students write the prix fixe and dessert menus which changes weekly so all students involved have the opportunity to develop a menu.  Course instructors develop the "static menu", though its execution is left entirely in the hands of the students.  The "static menu" changes with each quarter.

Sage Student Bistro operates in JoJo's dining room in the Institute for the Culinary Arts at Metropolitan Community College's Fort Omaha Campus.  Up to 65 people can be seated in the dining space, with parties up to 14.  Floor to ceiling windows offer plenty of natural light during lunch service.  Exposed brick walls add warmth.  In the evening, the pressed sorghum tables are draped with linen and candlelight creates an elegant, urban atmosphere. 

The menu creation bears in mind what each season has to offer in the way of fresh ingredients.  The winter quarter is about comfort food, perfect for keeping the cold at bay.  Starters include French onion soup laced with sherry for $6, and a dish called Trois Frites featuring a colorful array of Yukon Gold, Russet and bright orange sweet potato fries served with a malt vinegar reduction is priced at $7.  Entrees include braised short ribs with whipped potatoes and glazed carrots ($19), grilled lamb shops with ratatouille and mint puree, also at $19, and roasted chicken with mushroom bread pudding and carrot and parsnip ribbon for $17.

Sage Student Bistro is in the process of acquiring its liquor license.  O'Malley hopes to offer a curriculum driven wine list by spring.  Until then, guests can bring their favorite bottle of Burgundy or Bordeaux which Sage will cork for a nominal fee.

Sage Student Bistro is meaty education you can sink your teeth into.  Literally.

Sage Student Bistro is open Monday through Thursday, 6:00 to 8:30 pm.  Reservations are encouraged.

-end- metroMAGAZINE

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