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Hospitality (4)



Eating In

It’s early, and the wait staff in The Class Act Restaurant is shifting from morning omelets to mid-day meals. A student spreads lunchtime’s red tablecloth on top of breakfast’s yellow canvas.

She folds back the new cloth, tugs on the old, unfolds the fresh covering, and transforms the table without ever revealing a naked tabletop — a trick of the trade she’s learned on this job. Place settings and chair backs aligned, the dining space is ready.

In the kitchen Chef de Cuisine Ryan Harbaugh listens to his sous-chef, whose pitch and volume rise. He’s tense. Two students just failed to prepare dishes that pass his inspection, and those meals will not go out on time.
 
Harbaugh speaks directly to the students and lists the steps they’ll need to take to succeed. The students breathe deeply, take ingredients out of the refrigerator, and begin again.

 

“There are a lot of kitchens out there full of turmoil,” says Harbaugh, a Kirkwood alum who graduated in 2010 with degrees in culinary arts and restaurant management.

“I want students to have a firm grounding in respectful professionalism when they work. I take great pride in that, and I want to pass it on.”

Harbaugh describes a fusion of flavors on the menu today. Cuban pork on refried plantains offers a delicate balance of sweet and salty thanks to the mojo marinade created with sour orange, garlic, salt, and sugar.

Fried plantains lend a subtle, sweet crunch while refried black beans and jalapeño crema pack a smooth but spicy finish.

While he’s passionate about culinary beauty, he’s fascinated by the process of altering food at a molecular level.

Originally educated as a chemical engineer, he chose to further his career by earning a culinary arts degree. Melding science, nutrition, and art, Harbaugh steers his students through an inventive process.

“I love working here. Not only do I get to cook and create, but I also get to teach,” says Harbaugh, a Muscatine native. “Every two months I get a new batch of culinary arts students. I learn to manage and adjust for so many personalities.”

 

(Read more about Iowa Hospitality)

The food on the menu at Class Act is created with local or regional ingredients whenever possible. Much of the produce comes from local farms, spices from local vendors, meat from small producers, beer from regional microbreweries, and wine from area wineries — including selections from the Winery at Kirkwood. The emphasis is on a quality cuisine and the local economy.

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