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September 15, 2022, Memphis – After a several month respite, 47 members and guests were glad to get back to our monthly scheduled dinners. This event promised to be special from the beginning. It seemed like a logical choice to work with the Kemmons Wilson Culinary Institute, part of the University of Memphis School of Hospitality, to arrange a dinner prepared by their senior instructors (Chefs) and some of their students to showcase their developing skills and what the community will look forward to when these young men and women receive their degrees and enter the working world.

Dame de la Chaîne Ellen Meyer with Janet and Chevalier Al Lyons.

As we arrived at the venue, we experienced an interesting welcome. The school is in a suburban shopping center in a building formerly housing L’Ecole Culinaire, adjacent to a family event center and a tile store. Unexpectedly, as we parked our cars and headed for the front doors, we encountered a gaggle of geese sauntering across our path to the front door. I think everyone wondered what was on the menu for this evening. Not to worry, none of these geese were the entrée.

New members Dame de la Chaîne Kathryn Walker and Chevalier Tony Walker.

The inside space is impressive for a culinary school with modern furniture, computers, modern kitchens, including their own hydroponic herb and microgreen growing system, and plenty of space to teach the next generation of people interested in the food service industry. This was going to be an eventful dinner with a fun initial meet and greet in front of the University of Memphis Tigers blue tiger mascot for a glass of champagne or burgundy and several passed hors d’oeuvres, including Deviled Quail Eggs with Olive Tapenade and Tobiko; Duck Confit; Wild Mushroom and Pistachio on Blue Cheese Cracker with Fig Compote; and Asparagus Tips wrapped with Prosciutto and Phyllo.

The dining room was well appointed and tastefully decorated with a large painted wall sign reading “The Blue Room Restaurant”, which happens to be University of Memphis school colors. Tables were festooned with chargers and the usual gaggle of glasses to accommodate every course of wine for the evening. This would be a good introduction for these students to deal with “what glass goes with what wine” and how to pour without clinking the bottle to the glass.

After taking our places, Bailli George Chandler had members introduce eight special guests. We were especially honored to have the President of the University of Memphis, Dr. Bill Hardgrave and his wife Rhonda who were invited guests of Maître Hotelier George Johnson and his wife Betty. Our Bailli explained the importance of this dinner in this venue. Our Bailliage supports the training of new chefs and hospitality personnel for the future benefit of the food and wine industry. We are in the process of providing a scholarship to the Culinary School for a deserving young student.

Normally the Chef and staff are introduced at the end of the evening; however, Chef Bill Mullins asked if he could bring out his staff and student/servers beforehand to be introduced the guests. Bailli George Chandler turned the program over to Dr. Ibrahim Aldasoqi (Ph.D., PMP, PBA, MBA, MA, MS), Assistant Professor of Teaching with the Culinary School (formerly having spent 20 years with the Royal Palace in Jordan), to make the necessary introductions of this evening’s Chefs, who are also instructors at the Culinary School. They included Chef Bill Mullins, who was responsible for our hors d’oeuvres; Chef Eric Ogle who prepared the Fish, Poultry and Beef Courses; and Chef Helen Singleton who prepared the delicious Dessert Course.

(F to B): Dame de la Chaîne Debra Owings across from Maître de Hotelier Doug Owings, Chevalier Don Taddia across from Dame de la Chaîne Cheryl Taddia, Terry Radford across from Vice Conseiller Gastronomique Danny Sumrall.

(F to B): Vice Conseilleuse Culinaire Marne Anderson across from Vice Echanson Charlie Warner, Honored Guest Dr. Bill Hardgrave (President of the University of Memphis) across from his wife Rhonda, Betty Johnson across from Maître Hotelier George Johnson, Bailli George Chandler across from Dame de la Chaîne Robin Chandler.

Chef Mullins presented the student/servers, all 12 of them, and asked them to tell the guests their name and year in school. Throughout the evening, you could see that these student/servers had a passion for what they were doing, making everyone welcome, and being very efficient with their duties making this a well-coordinated evening.

Fish course wine to be served – 1018 Sarl Boyer-Martenot Bourgogne Blanc.

Fish course of Basil Seared Atlantic Cod with Quinoa Pilaf, Toasted Walnuts, Roasted Tomato Beurre Blanc, and Scallion Emulsion.

Once the preliminaries were dispensed with, the staff began filling our glasses with the first course of wine, a 2018 Yves Boyer-Martenot Bourgogne Blanc (100% Chardonnay) to pair with the Fish Course of Basil Seared Atlantic Cod with Quinoa Pilaf; Toasted Walnuts, Roasted Tomato Beurre Blanc, and Scallion Emulsion. The wine was exquisitely matched to the fish course. The empty plates were cleared efficiently by the staff of cordial, smiling students.

A Poultry Course followed, consisting of a Turkey Farce (highly seasoned stuffing) with Escargot Dressing and a Wild Mushroom Sauce, and was paired with a 2012 Eagles Trace Pinot Noir, Valhalla Vyd.

Poultry Course of Turkey Farce with Escargot Dressing and a Wild Mushroom Sauce.

Beef course wine to be served – 2017 Tenuta San Guido Guidalberto Toscana IGT.

Following this course, a Beef Course was presented by the serving staff, still smiling and having a good time. The course was a Boeuf Tournedo, with Zucchini, Braised Peppadew Pepper and a Béarnaise sauce. Accompanying this course was a glass of 2017 Tenuta San Guido Guidalberto Toscana ICT, which, as were the previous wines, matched elegantly with this course.

If anyone was still hungry, a Dessert Course was presented of a Ginger Créme Brúlée with Honey Poached Plum Hazelnut Sable, Dark Chocolate, and Rosa Regale Pearls. A glass of 2016 Château Doisy- Daëne, a Sauterne from the Barsac region, matched the sweetness of the dessert.

Student servers with Dr. Ibrahim Aldasoqi (left) and Chef Bill Mullins (right).

While everyone was catching their collective breaths, Chef Mullins brought out the staff again and answered any questions. It was evident that the University of Memphis Kemmons Wilson Culinary School is doing something right. The crew of young students were pleasant, well mannered, professional and excited to be working in this profession. And they obviously are getting a good practical education with the caliber of the instructors, who were our Chefs for the evening.

Vive la Chaîne!

Photos: Courtesy of Dennis Meyer, Vice Chargé de Presse

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