|By Bridget Doyle, Chicago
TribuneMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Sept. 26, 2011--The College of DuPage has unveiled a classroom where it's OK to sleep.
And when your rest is over, a fine-dining experience is only steps away.
The Glen Ellyn campus recently debuted its new Culinary and Hospitality Center -- a training ground for students who want to enter the restaurant and hotel businesses. The $25 million, 60,000-square-foot facility includes a six-room boutique hotel and two restaurants that students will help staff and that the public is welcome to use.
Classes began at the center Aug. 22. The Wheat Cafe is open for business, but the fine-dining Waterleaf Restaurant and the Inn at Water's Edge hotel won't open to the public until Oct. 3.
Along with giving hands-on experience to the students, officials said they hope that the facility will become a popular destination for the public.
College of DuPage President Robert Breuder noted that the Culinary and Hospitality Center is adjacent to the community college's popular McAninch Center for the Arts.
"The thought was, if we put the two near each other, the synergy of arts and culinary would create a sort of theater district on our campus," Breuder said.
The center, which also includes training kitchens and traditional classrooms, is already sparking student interest. The school's hospitality and culinary arts program serves the equivalent of 225 full-time students, 33 more than last year, said Joe Moore, spokesman for COD.
In past years, the program had been taught in the Student Resource Center, which also houses campus offices, a bookstore, reception areas and a conference center. The program now has twice the amount of space devoted exclusively to its students.
"This environment is the closest to real-world experience you can get," said first-year student Dennis Anders, of Carol Stream, a "classic career changer" who entered the program in January after 33 years of experience in management and logistics.
Waterleaf Restaurant, the 150-seat, fine-dining addition to the campus, operates under French chef Jean-Louis Clerc, who was raised in western France and studied at culinary schools in Paris and Toulouse, France. Clerc said he studied under chefs in London and France in Michelin-rated restaurants and came to Chicago in 2000.
Waterleaf's cuisine is Clerc's creation.
"The cuisine has a French core with Italian and American classics," Clerc said. "I'm bringing dishes in from the past and lightening them up -- playing with them."
The menu includes homemade pastas, risotto, seared foie gras, seafood, lamb shank and steaks. Clerc said he hopes to connect with DuPage-area farmers to emphasize locally grown and raised food.
"We're not going to be your typical night out," Clerc said.
Lunches at Waterleaf are expected to cost $22 to $30 per person, with dinners at $50 to $60 per person. Moore said the restaurant is expected to be self-sustaining.
Waterleaf is run by non-student staff and chefs, but internship opportunities will be available, hospitality supervisor Catherine Leveille said. The internships will likely be competitive, she said.
The Wheat Cafe, a student-run lunch and dinner spot and a takeout market, features food from the school's culinary students.
"Wheat Cafe is so beneficial to the culinary students because they now get eight extra weeks of practice in the kitchen -- a total of 16 weeks," said Samantha Fruzyna, of Wheaton, a second-year student. "We didn't have that in the old space."
The Inn at Water's Edge, which spanned the entire third floor of the building, will be run by Jamie Fredericks, a COD graduate and former 11-year employee and manager of a Marriott Hotel in St. Charles.
The hotel serves as an internship spot for COD students. Hospitality students will complete 150 hours in the hotel in sales, management and housekeeping and on the bell staff.
The hotel features two queen and four king rooms, each with a walk-in marble shower, flat-screen TVs and a view of COD's pond landscape. Fredericks said there are 12 planned parking spots for hotel guests.
Pricing for the hotel has not been set, but Fredericks expects the range to be $129 to $159 a night. The rates are not expected to cover the costs, Moore said.
"There is a growing need to provide extremely good food and hospitality training for our students," Moore said. "These living laboratories will allow COD students to enter the workforce with real-world experience under their belts."
In the beginning, Fredericks anticipates much of the hotel use will be by COD faculty, staff and students, but she hopes to reach others with weekend packages.
Leveille, too, said she hopes the community will continue to take advantage of the students' work by dining at the restaurants, trying the takeout food and staying at the hotel.
"These facilities are professional establishments with real opportunities for students," Leveille said. "It's the interconnection between professional and learning environments on campus that makes this building so special."
(c)2011 the Chicago Tribune
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