The Art of Culture

Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, which means that many of us have visions of hearts, flowers, and romantic gestures on our minds. However, if you’re an active culinary or hospitality student at Fox Valley Tech like I am, Valentine’s Day is second in ranking to the excitement and planning involved around the event known as Cultural Cuisine.

Held on February 27th this year, the event combines the efforts of over 100 hospitality students, faculty advisors, and volunteers to plan and cater a public tasting event for approximately 750 guests. The theme of this year’s event is “Destination Vacation”. There are 5 culinary teams, each comprised of 12-15 culinary arts students and one faculty advisor. Each team is responsible for planning and preparing the menu items to be shared on the day of the event, and each team has a different vacation destination theme which the foods served will be based on. This year’s food themes are Mexico, Las Vegas, Hawaii, Jersey shore, and Europe. There’s also an administrative team, which I am grateful and excited to be a part of. Our team handles all of the behind-the-scenes planning (food/beverage orders, guest services, ticket sales, silent auction organization, equipment rental, etc.)

Preparations for this year’s event began last October, so with the event just 3 weeks away, we are now in “final launch” mode. I, for one, cannot wait for lift off!

Here are a few pictures from last year’s event:

You can learn more about the details of this gala affair, along with a link to order tickets, at CULTURAL CUISINE 2011. Incidentally, one of the exciting parts of the event is a silent auction, which raises scholarship funds for the hospitality programs at the school. If you’re interested in donating an item, please email ME, or you can reach the department Chair, Chef Jeff Igel, HERE. We will gratefully accept any and all donations!

Now, for those of you who have a need and desire to focus on the Valentine holiday at hand, I offer up a wonderful European recipe for you. It’s red, beautiful, romantic, and this has culture, too…in the form of sour cream! J


Photo by: PORNCHAI MITTONGTARE (Recipe from Bon Appetit and


  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 cups (packed) coarsely grated peeled uncooked beets (about 3 large)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 12 ounces pasta, tagliatelle or fettuccine recommended
  • 1 8-ounce container sour cream
  • 6 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley, divided


Melt butter with oil in large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add garlic; stir until pale golden, about 1 minute. Add beets and cayenne; reduce heat to medium-low and sauté just until beets are tender, about 12 minutes. Stir in lemon juice.

Meanwhile, cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally.

Drain pasta and return to pot. Stir in sour cream and 4 tablespoons parsley, then beet mixture. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer pasta to bowl. Sprinkle with remaining 2 tablespoons parsley and serve.

Read more about the recipe HERE

This dish would make a great starter course, or could be the perfect side to steak, pork, or chicken. Serve it up with a full bodied red wine and watch your love meal bloom!


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