Aqua Terra brings modern dining experience

Students, instructors receive high-tech equipment in upgraded kitchen

By Denis Perez, Assistant Photo Editor

The culinary arts department is working to establish Aqua Terra Grill as a legitimate dining experience, and a training kitchen that gives students a strong culinary education. 

Culinary arts department instructor Claire Legas said people sometimes forget that Aqua Terra Grill is a training kitchen where students practice their culinary skills and abilities.

Culinary arts department Chairperson Nader Sharkes said state of the art equipment like an up-to-date burner stove, utensils, tools and computerized ovens, combined with upgraded technology like a classroom filled with mounted T.V’s help students learn.

Sharkes said the culinary department has a great opportunity to educate its students to a higher level than before.

He said the main goal is to train our students, so it is a serious training program that is physically and mentally challenging, but that is how students grow.

Culinary arts department assistant instructor Shirley Blair said she is excited for the semester to start because the new kitchen is much bigger than the old Three Seasons Restaurant in the Applied Arts Building.

Blair said students no longer have to share equipment, like fryers, and are able to cook without waiting for someone else to finish their dish.

Along with the new equipment, she said students also have more room to move around in the kitchen.

Sharkes said guest chefs have also been invited to visit Aqua Terra Grill and give in-class demonstrations to students and the community would like to attend.

Sharkes said Chef Hai Le will demonstrate Shanghai cuisine in September.

Chef Martin Yen will give a demonstration in November, and although Sharkes said he has not confirmed a date, Chef Bruce Aidells is on the list.

Sharkes said now that the modern facility is open and filled with equipment, students are now equipped to, “do things faster and in more quantities.” 

He said culinary students already experienced the faster pace while cooking for the Taste of Italy Iron Chef competition on Thursday at the Aqua Terra Grill.

“It was crazy,” he said.

The Aqua Terra Grill capacity is set at 100, but more than 200 people showed up to Iron Chef cook-off. Although there was not enough space, and hosts had to start turning people away, everything else went great Sharkes said.

The dishes students will be preparing for the Aqua Terra Grill menu range from a $2 soup-of-the-day to sweet and sour chicken with garlic noodles for $7.

Blair said Sharkes divided students into groups of five to prepare dishes for a week and then rotate the team every week.

Along with selling deserts at Aqua Terra Grill, Lages said there will be students pushing desert carts around the campus selling pastries and treats while getting course credit.

The treats will change regularly she said.

Aqua Terra Grill, which is set to open Tuesday, features modernized black tiled flooring, a well-lit dining room, filled with dark wood tables and chairs, leather booths and a full espresso and juice bar.

There is a patio outside where customers can sit if the restaurant is full, or if they want to enjoy the sunshine Sharkes said.

There will be large umbrellas and outside heaters during the winter if the budget allows, Sharkes said.

The Amphitheater is located a few feet by Rheem Creek and away from the Aqua Terra Grill’s patio.

He said it will be used for events where the culinary work of students can be featured alongside performances.

With the holidays coming up, there is also an opportunity for festive events to be hosted as well in the Amphitheater Sharkes said.

Fundraisers to help the victims of the earthquake in Central Italy will also be held in the upcoming weeks in Aqua Terra Grill he said.

The culinary program has a connection with Italy because of the annual study aboard program he said.

Sharkes said that the Aqua Terra Grill could be a connecting point between students and the rest of campus.

People are able to connect with each other at a four-year campus, but it’s harder in the community college level because students come to campus and then leave after class he said.

We want people to have pride in their campus community as they would at a four-year, Sharkes said.