The jewel of Red River College’s Hospitality, Baking and Culinary Arts programs
A visit to Jane’s Restaurant is akin to watching a junior hockey game. The students’ desire to prove themselves results in an excellent experience and the fun factor is high as you anticipate who the breakout stars will be, going on to the big leagues. Over the years, many, many chefs and graduates from the hospitality and tourism program have done exactly that.
If you have ever dined at Winnipeg’s stellar restaurants of 529, Elements, Pizzeria Gusto, Segovia or Wasabi Sabi (and I am thrilled to say that I have had the pleasure to visit each one), you have experienced the mastery of the star chefs that have graduated from the RRC Culinary Arts program. Chef Adam Donnelly, Chef Kelly Cattani, Chef Michael Dacquisto, Chef Eric Lee and Chef Östen Rice are all alumni of Red River College as well as many more that sharpened their knives and their skills at the campus.
Jane’s Restaurant is housed in the former bank hall of the architecturally exquisite Union Bank built in 1904. I had not stepped into the columned chamber since the space was occupied by Bogart’s Nightclub in the ’80s (yes, I am that old!) and was impressed even then by the structure that was said to be the oldest sky-scraper in Western Canada. The room was a treasure then and even more so now that it, and the entire building, were stunningly restored and reopened in 2013.
The culinary, baking and pastry arts, as well as hospitality management programs, are all housed at the Paterson GlobalFoods Institute in the Union Bank Building and Jane’s is so named for Andrew Paterson’s mother. Approximately 140 students are anticipated to graduate from the Paterson GlobalFoods Institute every year.
The teaching model utilized is that the first year students take care of lunch service at Jane’s and the second years handle the dinner service. And so it was that we were greeted by a very eager but slightly nervous server who was ready to take our order moments after we sat down. This is the key point to remember about a visit to Jane’s: since you could encounter a pod of students who have almost completed their six week rotation or one approaching their very first table, the onus is on you to be the patient diner, allow them to make mistakes (as we all know that this is the very best way to learn), offer constructive criticism to their instructor, Janet Townsend, if necessary and enjoy the satisfaction of being a part of this splendid process. The fringe benefit of helping educate the next generation of restaurateurs is of course the glorious food!
I have had occasion to dine at pastry instructor Chef Mary-Jane Feeke’s restaurant in Selkirk and knew that the bread basket would be a treat, and so it was. Red pepper butter accompanied lavash, focaccia and a delightful three leafed clover bun in its own baking pan – it was our lucky day!
Our server suggested we might find the Asian Salad that we were planning on sharing a bit on the spicy side, which was not actually the case. In truth, the bites of the crispy walleye that adorned the salad were what we were after – perfectly crunchy on the outside, piping hot and moist on the inside.
My eldest daughter was my lunch date that day and she chose tagliatelle pasta (resembles fettuccine) tossed with sage, toasted walnuts and crumbled gorgonzola cheese. She remarked that the bold flavours were a perfect complement to one another and offered me a taste. Since I am not a gorgonzola appreciator (I would like to be, but just haven’t mastered it), I was more than satisfied with a single forkful.
I was saving myself for my entrée choice, prepared under the tutelage of Chef Tim Appleton: Bacon-Wrapped Pork Tenderloin. The dish was the essence of Jane’s and their mandate of showcasing Canadian cuisine, from the surprising sweetness of the acorn squash with the perfectly seared scallop perched upon it, to the barley pilaf that cradled the pair of just pink tenderloins, to the garden-pulled rainbow carrots in between. Wow, just wow!
We indulged in a Triple Chocolate Fudge Brownie to share and were as delighted by the thin little cookies and homemade coffee ice cream that garnished the plate, as the baked trinity itself.
If I lived or worked in the area, I would find an excuse to dine often as it is virtually a new restaurant each and every time you step through the doors. Not to mention the prices, which are bargains. Since Jane’s is a student-learning environment it is open according to the needs and requirements of the students’ curriculum i.e. Tuesday – Friday. Be sure to check their website for exact hours to avoid disappointment.