Troy Moon, Pensacola State College
Ashley Faulkner readily admits that she is not the most experienced person when it comes to what is referred to as “fine dining.” You know that fancy eating at those swanky restaurants where you have to be finicky about which fork to use.
But in the last few weeks she’s tried escargot for the first time and has been mesmerized by infused butter – all part of her experiences as a three-time diner of the Pensacola State College Culinary Management Program’s popular Lunch & Dinner Series.
Faulkner is a PSC Title III Student Services Adviser and has made all three visits to Lunch & Dinner Series this fall semester. And this fall, only PSC staff and employees, such as Faulkner, are allowed to attend the Lunch & Dinner Series servings because of COVID-19 precautions.
“Today’s meal was amazing,” Faulkner said after a Wednesday lunch featuring French onion soup, a Caesar salad, Parmesan Shrimp with Polenta Cakes and Broccoli, a dessert choice of Sacher Torte and Orange and Almond Cake and, French bread with butter infused with orange and honey. “They really make it such an experience for you.”
The food might be as delicious as in previous series seasons, but the atmosphere is different. The meals are served in the Molly McGuire Culinary Arts Dining Room on the Pensacola campus.
“There have been challenges,” said PSC Chef and Culinary instructor David Langham. “We’ve had to reduce seating about 50 percent.”
During Tuesday’s lunch service, the PSC students served only 10 guests who were seated at three different tables. The dining room has 10 tables and can seat up to 60 diners, but Langham said the program is only using tables that are separated from other tables by at least 6 feet, which mirrors the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s COVID-19 guidelines.
All students and faculty also wear masks throughout food preparation and service.
“We’ve always been really vigilant about hygiene anyway,” Langham said. “But now, it’s even more so.”
PSC Culinary instructor Joni Verlin agreed.
“We’ve always harped on cleanliness and sanitary conditions,” she said. “But we’re also wearing the masks, which presents some challenges.”
She said that some of the servers, when standing in front of the dining room and explaining the menu to guests, have a trouble being heard.
“Some of them are quiet anyway, so they just need to work on projecting (their voices),” she said. “We’re also limiting interaction so guests at one table don’t get up and visit at another table.”
And all guests wear masks except when seated at their table.
“It’s a challenging year, for sure,” Langham said. “But it’s been that way for everyone. Our students are handling it very well.”
PHOTO: PSC Culinary Management student Skyler Bolton serves French onion soup to College employees, from left, Deven Walther-Thead, Ashley Faulkner and Sylvia Hammond. Photo by Troy Moon
Pensacola State College Culinary Management Program Lunch & Dinner Series information:
Dinner on Tuesdays and Thursdays, lunch on Wednesdays.
Prices: $12.50 on Tuesday and Wednesday, $20 on Thursday. Thursday’s dinners are a full five-course with French service.
To make a reservation, call Kelly McCowan, 850-484-1422.