Making an entire elegant meal from scratch isn’t easy, neither is serving it up, but that’s what the students taking part in the Summer Arts Institute did last month.
And the critical reaction was that everything was tres magnifique.
“Decadent,” was how Apalachicola City Manager Travis Wade described the flourless chocolate cake that together with café du mond crème anglaise topped off the June 11 meal at the Holy Family Senior Center..
It had all been the work of about 18 students from the institute, under the tutelage of Chef Brett Gormley.
With careful attention to detail, the students spent an entire week preparing the menu from scratch beginning with an appetizer of crawfish pie, served with remoulade and chives. The students had picked the meat from the fresh catch, and then used it to form the basis of a pie that went quickly as the guests savored the delicate flavors.
Following that, the students brought to the tables up a yellow tomato oyster bisque, served with truffle oil, also made by their young hands during the week of preparation.
Each of the tables had been graced with original table settings, created courtesy of Valentina Webb, Molly Hill, Toni Morrison, Karen Kessel, Gladys Gatlin, Merrill Livingston, Jean Austin, Fonda Davis and Holly Brown.
Next up was the niçoise salad, served with potatoes, olives, haricot verts, eggs, tomatoes, radishes, fresh tuna and an herb vinaigrette.
The entrée was a crab-stuffed flounder roulade, served with cheesy risotto summer squash medley and a lemon-thyme buerre blanc.
At each stage of the meal, Gormley shared with guests details of what they would be eating, as the students carefully waited on the guests, mainly parents, who filled up Holy Family.
An examination of the kitchen on production days, and on the day of the meal, revealed it to be spic-and-span, as the students learned the fine art of planning, preparation, and clean-up.
“They did an amazing job,” said Webb.
During the culinary week, Jeff Tilley, owner of Oyster Boss, stopped by to give the students an informative seminar on oyster aquaculture, bringing together the lessons of farming with the creation of flavorful fare.
Al Goosby had earlier taken the students fishing on St. George Island.
Culinary Arts was just one aspect of the institute, which was the brainchild of Frenchy Haynes, a New York City-based dance and arts instructor who had put together a program that blended everything from visual arts, taught by Patricia Smith, of Carrabelle, to photography, taught by Jacksonville professor Mark Zimmerman, to West African dance, taught by Tiffany Austin, from Tallahassee, and percussionist Eddie Dorman.
“It’s going really well,” said Haynes. “He’s teaching them authentic dance, from Maui, Senegal, the Ivory Coast, Benin. He has an array of instruments from there.”
The visual arts workshop addressed self-portraits and landscapes, with a focus on techniques that included Jackson Pollock-style drip paintings.
Haynes said the average age of the students who took part was around 12 or 13.
“Community Moving Education is more about giving the opportunity to discover a passion, instead of saying to them you need to do this this way,” he said. “It’s to get your feet wet, to get your hands dirty, to find out if this is a part of you.
“You don’t know because you’ve never tried it,” Haynes said he tells the students.
“It’s also about interpersonal skills. You work next to someone, and learn to work with a team and still be an individual,” Haynes said.
Haynes himself worked as a teacher, instructing a literacy-based movement class that covered yoga, dance, and writing.
“The boys class is talking about and exploring with peers what’s it like to be boy in the world today,” he said. “And for girls, it’s about what it’s like to be a girl.
“They’re separate and I’m teaching both of them,” he said. “They’re exploring a boys pledge and a girls pledge, about being all right with being beautiful, being joyful and making mistakes. Boys don’t get to hear that enough, that they’re beautiful.”
The institute will wrap up Friday evening, July 2 at 6 p.m. at the Holy Family Senior Center, with a special performance. The public is invited; there is no charge.