Quail eggs, anyone?

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 5, 2012

Abby Williams, Chef Michael Whelan, Patricia Daniels, Rani Myers, Lisa Riedel and Cindi Rider Cross.


Before he took a job as the leader of LBW Community College’s new culinary arts program, Chef Michael Whelan lived in Pheonix, Ariz., population 5 million.

There, quail eggs were a somewhat rare delicacy.

So when one of his students asked if he’d like some quail eggs for class, he was thinking perhaps a few.

To his amazement, he was presented with five pounds of the eggs, which are about the size of large candy robin’s eggs, popular at Easter.

His students also have brought grass-fed beef they grew themselves.

It’s a stark contrast to the difficulty he sometimes has in locating ingredients here, he said. But all-in-all, he’s quite pleased after the first few weeks of the first class, which has seven students.

Thursday, all dressed in chefs’ coats monogrammed with an LBW emblem, the students prepared lunch for friends and family in their kitchen classroom in the carriage house of Springdale. Through an arrangement with the City of Andalusia, the culinary arts program uses the commercial kitchen as a classroom.

The students recently brined, seasoned and smoked their own pastrami. Earlier this week, they made Reubens, but on Thursday, they served the pastrami in sandwiches with sweet potato fries, cream of mushroom soup, and broccoli salad, with a panna cotta for dessert.

Whelan said the students have already worked on the five mother sauces. From there, they’ll work with derivative sauces, and they also are learning the science behind cooking, he said.

There have been no complaints. Students don’t miss class, they arrive early and stay late, he said.

Or, as student Patricia Daniels put it, “Nobody wants to miss anything.”

The quail eggs will be used in quiche Lorraine. However, they were boiled and will be placed in the quiche whole, so that diners have a sense of what they’re getting.

Next month, the students will prepare the food for an LBW Foundation event set for Springdale. Long term, Whelan said he’d love to see a student-run restaurant.

“I may be dreaming big,” he said. “But it would be great.”

Whelan completed studies at The Culinary Arts Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y., and holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the Brooks Institute of Photography in Santa Barbara, Calif.

His culinary experience spans more than 25 years in all facets of gourmet cuisine, including preparation, kitchen operations and staff training. In addition, Whelan has more than 11 years full-time experience teaching at community colleges in Arizona

One of the challenges for some students has been the cost of uniforms and knives, he said. Anyone who’s going to work in the field needs his or her own set, Whelan said, and a full set is about $300.