Photo by Melissa Goldin

The French Culinary Institute in New York. Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Boston. The California Culinary Academy in San Francisco. What do all these premier culinary schools have in common with UR? Well, they’re all about to get their butts kicked by the newest and the most aristocratic fine dining school in this country. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the UR School of Culinary Excellence (URSCE) is finally here. For once, UR dining will start getting the appreciation it truly deserves.

Now, many might wonder what URSCE has that the other programs don’t. Well, just look around our new and improved campus.

For one thing, we have the widest selection of foods. Have you ever been to those French cooking schools? It seems as though all they ever do is teach students to make fancy sounding desserts. Apple Clafoutis? Parisian Chocolate Mousse? Chocolate Crème Brûlée? No more uppity desserts you don’t know how to spell.

At URSCE, you’ll learn the art of making chocolate chip cookies. You’ll learn to get the right texture and make sure each cookie is perfect down to the number of chocolate chips it has. And let’s face it, as a student at UR, chocolate chip cookies are a good portion of my diet. But it’s not because there simply isn’t anything more than burnt pizza to eat. On the contrary, it’s because when I walk into a place like Danforth or Douglass dining centers, I’m overwhelmed by how much UR cares about the health of its students and how the chefs manage to think of so many innovative ideas when it comes to creating masterpieces of food.

The broccoli cheddar soup is so thick, creamy and green because of all the extra nutrition in it. The stir fry has so many healthy vegetables, that I forget about the cup of oil used to fry everything in it. Instead, I direct my attention toward the delicious sauce that my taste buds can’t categorize as either sweet or spicy. Or how about those eggs (or rather, those Egg Beaters)? Forget about the nutrients you’re not getting —  focus on all the cholesterol you’re being saved from.

That’s not all URSCE succeeds in teaching. There’s another aspect of URSCE that no culinary institute in the world can compete with: portion size. Those fancy shmancy cooking schools can never understand the plight of poor hungry college students. At URSCE, cooks are taught to give the right amount of food — no more and no less. Gone are the days when you spent time wondering how much you should eat. Let the professionals decide how much is good for you. On top of that, URSCE teaches one more very important life lesson: perseverance. You get out of class, haven’t eaten anything in hours, you go to a dining hall and … oh look, there are 50 people ahead of you just to get a spoonful -— I mean, bucketful — of pasta. What do you do? You stand up to the hungry beast inside of you and wait like any mature young adult would. In the real world, every young adult pays over $2,000 just to wait in line for a half hour to get something to eat.

The positives of this new division of UR are endless. Did you know they’ve also incorporated engineering into fine dining? During the spring of 2012, the URSCE will have a class called “Fixing the Soft-Served Ice Cream Machine 101” and “How to Make Complicated Dirty Dish Collecting Systems.” So put your chef hat on, and declare your second major today at the UR School of Culinary Excellence.

Panda is a member of the class of 2014.

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