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Dining with the IMU chefs

BY ERIC SUNDERMANN | NOVEMBER 19, 2009 7:21 AM

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In a world with more than 6 billion people and nearly 200 hundred countries, there’s one thing we all have in common — the need to eat.

“Food is the one common denominator to humans and the world,” IMU executive chef Rod Bowman said. “The food is obviously always different, but the act of eating and preparing that food is often similar, if not the same.”

“Lunch with the Chefs” will serve the IMU Main Lounge with worldly cuisine at 11:15 a.m. today. Admission ranges from $7 (students) to $8 (public).

This time, the chefs are providing a four-course French bistro meal, serving an entrée of “carved mustard-encrusted bone in pork loin with natural jus fall medley of potato gratin.” Bowman said the French culture approaches cuisine in a much different manner than Americans.

“[The French] tend to not eat on the run,” the 47-year-old said. “They don’t believe in the American lifestyle — that food is a consumption item. They believe it’s fuel, of course, but they believe it’s entertainment as well.”

When Bowman started his cooking career in the ’80s, French cuisine hadn’t yet hit all of the Midwest. He said this combined with how the French culture approaches food is why Americans may hold it to a higher standard.

“As the general public became aware of the higher level of fine dining in America, they associated that with French food,” Bowman said. “Everyone assumed if you were having a four-star, five-course, elegant dinner that lots of French technique was involved.”

Bowman emphasized the reverence that French culture puts on the act of dining and noted that the French don’t eat just because of hunger but rather take pride in what they put in their mouth.

“Their chefs become highly trained,” he said. “We in America might not take four hours to make a sauce.”

For potential attendees, Bowman said “Lunch with the Chefs” is a great opportunity for new experiences without spending too much cash. He said the lunch setting is quite casual and fairly quick.

“Plus, it shows that at the IMU there’s some real talented people presenting food from the around the world that they’re not familiar with,” Bowman said. “This is just a chance for anyone to try new food or food they’re unfamiliar with in an easy and casual setting.”

Former IMU building assistant manager Mitchell Bellfield describes the atmosphere as lively and fun with attendance typically ranging from 500 to 700.

“It’s a fun getaway for all the staff and faculty,” the UI senior said. “It’s a good chance to relax and have a nice meal. They play music. It’s just cool.”

Bowman is fascinated that a simple item such as food is able to reach throughout the world and help develop different cultures.

“Learning about another person’s culture was somewhat synonymous with learning about their food,” the chef said. “For example, you might not know someone very well, but if you learn about their food, you quickly learn about them and make a connection.”


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