Courses Restaurant: Where Student Chefs Prepare and Serve Food
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The Art Institute of Houston
Courses Restaurant is located inside of the Art Institute of Houston at 4140 Southwest Freeway, Houston, Texas 77027. I had noticed that tall building on the north side of the Southwest Freeway but did not realize that cooking was a part of the school curriculum. I assumed that art and fashion would be taught but learned that much more education takes place there. Click here to see their website with all of their offerings.
Our discovery of this student-run restaurant was due to my noticing discount coupons on Groupon. Courses Restaurant sparked my curiosity. My husband agreed to accompany me and check it out. We have now gone there twice and have enjoyed a three-course lunch for two for a very reasonable price. They offer those lunches on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 11 A.M. to 1 P.M.
Also offered are four-course dinners for two or four people on Thursdays and Fridays from 6 P.M. to 7:30 P.M. Reservations are required. The menu frequently changes which makes sense. It gives the aspiring chefs more opportunities to learn about different foods and how to perfect the cooking as well as the presentation of it.
Meals Prepared by Aspiring Chefs
Diplomas, as well as two and four-year degrees, are offered in this culinary school. Subjects include the following:
- Pastry and Baking
- Culinary Arts
- Culinary Management
- Hospitality Food and Beverage Management
The student chefs learn to work in the front as well as the back of the house studying all aspects of not only food preparation but how to keep customers happy.
Our First Dining Experience
My husband and I both selected the crawfish soup and the tilapia entree, but each chose different desserts on our first dining visit to the Courses Restaurant. Every bite of the food was delicious, and the student chefs in training were very friendly as servers. One young man was a retired serviceman, and he was now studying to become a chef.
In looking at the Art Institute website, it appears that there is a great deal of tuition assistance for honorably discharged men and women who have served our country in uniform. That is wonderful to know.
Art on Walls
The decor is minimal in this student-operated restaurant. The tables are widely spaced and are covered with white linens and black napkins. According to their website, this restaurant space can accommodate up to 45 people for meetings or special events. There are multiple views of the kitchen from the restaurant as well as the entrance hall.
As an artist, I am always interested in viewing art. We noticed that there was different art displayed on the walls from our first visit to the next time we decided to enjoy a lunch there. A culinary instructor who was checking on us both times to see if we were satisfied with our meals, informed us that art is also created by students. Those white walls offer a splendid palette for the display of colorful art. I particularly liked the rabbit and butterfly pieces.
Our Second Dining Experience
The Zuppa Toscana shown above may not have looked that pretty, but it was tasty according to my husband. The soup had components of Italian sausage, potatoes, and kale plus other seasonings.
My first choice selection of the hummus platter was very visually appealing as you can readily see. I ended up taking a sizable portion of it home with me. I could have easily made a meal of just that! It had not only hummus but also some tzatziki along with the pita bread and veggies.
My husband was happy with his Chicken Flautas served over a bed of rice. I thought that the shrimp and grits were beautifully flavored with diced red, yellow, and green peppers as well as roasted tomato and bits of bacon or pork belly.
All main selections were served in bowls on our second visit. The menu was designed by the students who were nearing the end of their term. The other entree choice from which we could have selected that day was a lamb kebob.
Usually, I do not order dessert. Since it was included, I enjoyed a few bites of the rice pudding as I had of the mixed berry parfait on our first visit. The show-stopper this time was the deconstructed tiramisu which my husband had ordered. The fact of it being deconstructed was a pleasant surprise. He enjoyed it immensely for the visual effect as well as the flavor. Many people seemed to be ordering it that day.
The walls outside of Courses Restaurant are filled with the faces of some of the graduates of this cooking school who have gone on to have successful careers in Houston as well as in other parts of the country.
You may recognize Chef Charles Clark and Chef Chris Shepherd if you dine out often in Houston since they are chef-owners of local dining establishments.
If you visit the Kiawah Island Golf Resort, you might have seen or eaten one of the exquisite pastries made by Chef John Adams.
You may recognize Chef Sarah Grueneberg from her participation in Food Network, and other televised competitions or have eaten in her Chicago restaurant. She along with many other chefs who have been trained at The Art Institute of Houston has been honored with multiple awards.
So…if you are the type of person who likes to take chances with an ever-changing menu and enjoy eating the food of chefs who are still in training, who knows, you may meet the next superstar chef before they attain those accolades and fame.
Free parking is located in a parking garage to the back of the Art Institute of Houston.