Menu Gallery Serves Art, History and Learning to Students

Norfolk, VA - Connecting kitchens, classrooms and offices stretches a long corridor that serves as a visual tribute to the culinary arts. Framed along its walls are 57 creations in cuisine; menus from some of the best restaurants in the Americas and Europe. The Menu Gallery of Fame at ECPI University's Culinary Institute of Virginia (CIV) in Norfolk, Virginia features bills of fare from the last 50 years and continues to grow.

Beluga caviar with lobster thermidor served on Rosenthal bone china is just a sampling from the first class menu on Pan Am's inaugural transatlantic jet flights in 1959. Adjacent is a menu from The French Laundry restaurant with the signature of Chef Thomas Keller. Not far down the corridor is a Spago menu courtesy of Wolfgang Puck. Alongside is the carte de jour from Craft restaurant with best wishes from Tom Colicchio of Top Chef fame. And then there's the menu from Les Set Portes restaurant in Barcelona, which has been in operation for 175 years. Vibrant colors, distinctive graphics and genres of style offer a reflection of decades past and present.

"The artwork and design of many of these menus is amazing and often provide a very telling look back in time," says Andy Gladstein, CIV Campus Director. "This is a school for the study of culinary arts and these menus reflect both form and function."

The gallery was started when the institute opened five years ago as a unique way to decorate the hallway. Staff have collected and donated menus that are artfully arranged by Frame-Up Gallery of Virginia Beach in a 180-foot-long corridor at the heart of the institute. The exhibit not only inspires the appetite - along with a heaping helping of artistic expression, history and fame - the menus are also employed as learning tools in CIV's curriculum. Students utilize them as a frame of reference and inspiration in designing menus, for purchasing and cost courses and creating recipes.

"It's amazing to see these menus created by some of the best chefs at the best eating establishments in the world," says Brittany Bowen, earning an Associate's Degree in Culinary Arts from CIV. "I think, wow, that could be me one day. The gallery is a motivator for us. The menu I find the most exciting is from the French Laundry. Thomas Keller is just a phenomenal chef."

CIV, ECPI University's School of Culinary Arts, offers students a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Administration with a concentration in Food Service Management, as well as an Associate of Applied Science Degree in Culinary Arts for students seeking culinary careers.

"The culinary instructors often point to the detail and visual appeal of the menus as great examples to learn from," says Bowen, 20, a Yorktown, Virginia resident. "In English class we are asked to write essays about what we think are the most engaging and informative menus and why."

Chef Steve Sadowski is Campus Director of Academic Administration at CIV. "The Menu Gallery of Fame is used as a reference point and tool in a variety of ways in our classes," Sadowski says. "We include it as part of our general education course classes, incorporating elements and aspects of dining as part of the lesson. This presents subject matter in a way that is relevant to what our students are studying and for their future careers as well."

Gladstein says he sees students admiring and referring to the collection on a daily basis. "We like to try to turn each moment here into a learning moment," Gladstein says. "There is inspiration and education in nearly every menu the students walk by."

For more information or to visit the Menu Gallery of Fame and speak with staff and students, contact Scott McCaskey at Goldman & Associates at: scott@goldmanandassociates.com or at 757-625-2518. The Culinary Institute of Virginia is located at 2428 Almeda Ave. in Norfolk, VA. The website is: www.chefva.com.

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