Culinary Class: Francis Tuttle in Oklahoma City raises the bar for cooking instruction

The newly expanded School of Culinary Arts at Francis Tuttle Technology Center is the crown jewel of Oklahoma's culinary instruction.
by Dave Cathey Modified: April 16, 2013 at 4:28 pm •  Published: April 17, 2013
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Under his charge are three concepts:

• Tut's is a cafeteria but is armed with a pizza oven, indoor grill and hot griddle along with a taco bar and deli. Tut's also offers grab-and-go options and pastries. It's open from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and offers a broad range of experiences for the students.

• Cravings is a bakery open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays. It offers fresh-baked breads, pastries and grab-and-go breakfast and lunch offerings along with fresh-brewed coffee.

• District 21 is not yet open but is in operation. Dunham and Becker hope to open for regular service in June. For now, they are preparing by doing some private events.

“At District 21, we plan to focus on simple preparation of individual ingredients,” Becker said. “The idea is to show the students what perfectly prepared ingredients offer in flavor, which leads to them learning to blend and stack them.”

Tut's and Cravings are open to the public. When District 21 opens, we'll provide more information in The Oklahoman.

Training for the table

Dunham is a serious chef, which leads him to some concerns over the way television has made a darling of chefs.

“The exposure it has given our profession is tremendous,” he said. “Places like this wouldn't exist without it, but it has created a breed of young cooks who want to go straight to having their own television show.”

He believes young chefs must enter the profession understanding there is a procession to the top, and that begins with simple cooking. He said good line cooks are in huge demand. The number of highly qualified and experienced line cooks a market has in its workforce is directly related to the quality of its dining scene. Great food is made by hand, and the more well-trained hands we have, the better our food will be prepared.

Francis Tuttle's classes are primarily populated by students from the school districts the tech center serves, but the culinary program is open to anyone.

The top-flight facilities will give students an advantage in learning to operate state-of-the-art equipment. But Dunham said he also feels a responsibility as an instructor to be a good steward of classic cooking techniques developed over centuries. That's why students will also learn butchering, dough-making and charcuterie skills.

“If we don't pass down this knowledge, who will?” Dunham said. “And a lot of working chefs never went to school and might never have worked at a restaurant doing charcuterie, so some of the instruction we offer will be attractive to working chefs as well as beginners.”

For more information, go to francistuttle.edu/culinaryarts or call 717-7799.

by Dave Cathey
Food Editor
The Oklahoman's food editor, Dave Cathey, keeps his eye on culinary arts and serves up news and reviews from Oklahoma’s booming food scene.
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