Love where you live!
Men in tuxedos and women dressed to the nines gathered in a cosy dining room of the new student center.
But this wasn't a funding celebration. This was a charity fundraiser that also demonstrated the sophistication and talents of this community college's culinary program.
No offense to Terra, Gingham or Pietro's, but the best restaurant meals served in East County on this rainy evening came out of the Grossmont kitchen on plates carried by young students.
Prepared under the guidance of San Diego's Chefs de Cuisine Association, the students started with poached spiced prawns with basil, lime and cilantro sauce. It was subtle and left you wanting a dozen more than they served.
Next came a soup course that featured a mushroom bisque that clearly was the result of hours of chopping, simmering and seasoning.
The salad course was sculpted vegetables presented with such beauty you felt like you were destroying a work of art. The taste of the lemon basil dressing overpowered any guilt.
The next course -- Intermezzo -- proved that these students had learned the affectations of haute cuisine by serving a stylish sorbet in a sugar coated martini glass as a palate cleanser. It really is like an early dessert to we unwashed.
The entree course was over the top -- as if the chef couldn't decide which good dish to serve and just gave us all his ideas -- braised ribs, pork tenderloin and both polenta and mashed potatoes with a perfectly prepared medley of vegetables under a Hollandaise. The food was again sculpted with an artist's eye and it was eaten and enjoyed with a miner's gusto.
Community colleges don't traditionally get all the respect in the world. The networks don't fight for their football contracts. The professors do more teaching than publishing.
But on this night we were thinking that in the new world of education, the one forming these days while few are watching closely, a school with programs like the one on display at this event may have a distinct advantage. They identify programs with clear connections to the community's needs, prepare the students well and partner with community organizations to get the students real world experience that complements the academic study. And they do it without leaving students with six figure debts following them out of the hallowed halls.
Perhaps one part of the answer to the funding crisis in California education could be recalibrating a bit -- focusing more on programs, skills and training, less on degree -- or at least less on clubby institutional identity. Maybe four-year community colleges would meet the demand and the market and at an affordable price.
Pass the ketchup.
Chris Lavin, is the editor of LaMesaToday.com.