On Friday nights, the Natural Gourmet Institute opens its doors to the general public and hosts vegetarian and vegan dinners. It is both an opportunity for the school to showcase its students’ newfound talents and one of the city’s best-kept dining secrets. But while the guests don’t arrive until 6:30, it’s all hands on deck, all day, at NGI’s kitchen in Chelsea.
“I really love the fact that with the Friday Night Dinners, it kind of mimics more of a real restaurant experience, so it gives you a little bit more pressure, a little bit more of that experience that you don’t necessarily get in the classroom,” said Jessica Serdikoff, one of NGI’s student chefs who helped prepare the October 13th dinner.
“It’s a vegan meal. We try to do seasonal, balanced, whole ingredients, whole grains, etc,” said Barbara Rich, a chef instructor at NGI. “And we first start out by practicing the entrée, and then once we have that down we work on the other courses, and the students put together all the recipes, they cost out the menu, they work on the décor for the rooms. Everything.”
Creamy polenta with broccoli rabe, served with grilled eggplant, zucchini and a tomato/olive/caper sauce was the main course, while roasted pear ice cream with chocolate dipped oranges and caramelized brittle dust was served for dessert. Serdikoff worked on the polenta while Melanie Mcintosh, another student, worked on the dessert.
“You’re doing everything from the preparation and the cooking and everything, all the way through to plating,” Mcintosh said.
For the guests, the experience can be as much of a learning experience as it is a night out.
“I saw an event that had jackfruit featured in the menu, and its something that I really like to eat, but I don’t know how to cook,” said Sue Shankar, a guest at the October 13th dinner. “So I was really interested in coming to class to learn more about it and to taste it.”
After every dinner, the chefs talk to the guests and answer questions about the meal’s preparation, origins, and ingredients.
“It really is their showcase for everything they’ve learned over the time they’ve been here. So we try and do really beautiful crafted meals,” said Rich.
To learn more about NGI’s Friday Night Dinners, check out the video or visit https://naturalgourmetinstitute.com/friday-night-dinner/.