The 6th annual Northwestern Michigan College Festival of Foods takes place on Saturday, February  8, 2014 from 10 AM – 3 PM. There are four, one hour sessions with four choices in each session. Between sessions there are 20 minute breaks when you can taste the dishes prepared in all the classes and sample other foods as you socialize with all Festival attendees in the lobby.

It’s a chance to try different foods, learn new cooking skills, and get fresh ideas in the state-of-the-art kitchen and demonstration classrooms of the Oleson Center on the main campus of Northwestern Michigan College. NMC Culinary instructors, area chefs, and local gourmet food artisans provide demonstrations, tips and tricks, and sampling.

Register today as space is limited to 125 and classes are first come, first choice!

There are four ways to register for the Festival of Foods

  1. Call Register and pay over the phone (pay via credit/debit card): 231-995-1700 or 800-748-0566, ext. 1700
  2. In Person: EES Office at NMC university Center, north wing, Cass Road, between 14th St. & S. Airport Rd.
  3. Mail: NMC-EES, 1701 E. Front Street, Traverse City, MI 49686-3061
  4. Online (credit/debit card) through NMC – Email session choices to ees@nmc.edu
Session 1 10:00 -11:00
Pete-PetersonDuck Confit at Home Randy Chamberlain, chef and 
owner of blu Restaurant in Glen Arbor, shares a few
tips and easy ways to approach duck confit including
butchering, curing, braising, searing and best of all –
savoring a sample or two.
Jian Bing (Chinese Crepes) Chef Pete Peterson, owner
of former Tapawingo discovered Jian Bing, China’s version
of the French crepe, on his recent trip to China. Watch as
he demonstrates how to make this savory delight with a
few western modifications. Don’t be surprised if you find
this unique taste treat at a local food truck soon.
Mediterranean Inspired Giorgio Lo Greco, chef and
owner of PepeNero, shows you an ingenious way of
making a little meat go a long way as he prepares a very
authentic and popular Sicilian dish, Involtini di Vitello
alla Palermitana. He’ll also share his passion for food
infused with Sicily’s traditions, customs, and culture.
Brew Better CoffeeJack Davis, owner and chief roaster
for Great Northern Roasting Company, knows nearly
everyone is familiar with preparing coffee, but rarely
do the small details of coffee brewing come into focus.
Watch and be prepared to confidently make the perfect
cup of coffee everytime.
Session 2 11:20 - 12:20
Italian Potato GnocchiDiscover these delightful,
delicious dumplings with chef and educator, Nancy
Krcek allen. Learn the secrets to a cloud-like texture and
how to properly form the dumplings. She’ll demonstrate
a couple of varieties and prepare a simple butter sauce to
serve with your sampling.
Knife Skills with Flair – Sharpen your chopping,
cutting, and julienning skills with Bob Rodriguez, Chef
Instructor with GL Culinary Institute as he creates an
over-the-top tray of veggies. Also learn the proper way to
slice, dice, sharpen your knives and more.
Fusion Cuisine – Anthony Craig, chef and owner of
Georgina’s, explores the fusion of the big, bold flavors of
Cuba and Nicaragua as he prepares a few of his favorite
dishes. Watch as he shows how one culture interacts with
the other and ultimately influences his cooking.
Lavender in the Kitchen – Lavender is not just a pretty
perennial – it’s also delicious! Join Sonja Richards, who
owns and operates a lavender farm, as she demonstrates
a few of her culinary delights. Sample lemonade, jam,
cookies, and even lavender ice cream. Discover ways to
incorporate lavender sugar and salt in your recipes.
Session 3 12:40 -1:40
Cooking Without a Recipe – Chefs Eric Patterson and
Jen Blakeslee, owners of The Cook’s House, share their
expertise and a few secrets to cooking delicious meals
without recipes. Great cooking goes beyond following
a recipe – it’s knowing how to coax the greatest possible
flavors from your ingredients.
Oil and Vinegar at its Best – Andy Stewart, corporate
chef for Fustini’s, shares the ease and versatility of
integrating traditional balsamic vinegars as a reduction,
glaze or syrup. Learn flavor-infused olive oil techniques
used in baking and sautéing and taste the marvelous
marinades and emulsions he gets as he combines flavors.
The Mouse is in the House – Let Sue Kurta, owner of
Boss Mouse Cheese, show you how easy it is to make
fresh mozzarella cheese at home with limited cheese
making experience and minimal ingredients. Taste the
subtleties of other hard cheeses she makes with a little
more time and expertise.
Sweets, Treats, and SpicesUnderstand how spices
enhance flavor and add character to foods with Andi
Pellicci, personal chef and owner of As You Dish.
Discover the ins and outs of seasoning mixes, dry rubs,
and dip mixes. Watch her make tasty no-bake granola
bars for a quick breakfast or mid-day pick me up.
Session 4 2:00 - 3:00
Cavetelli with Mushroom Ragu – Learn the secrets of
making your own pasta and sauces with Mickey Cannon,
Executive Chef and partner at Tuscan Bistro. Watch the
pro, pick up tips, and taste the savory outcome.
Oil and Vinegar at its Best – Andy Stewart, corporate
chef for Fustini’s, shares the ease and versatility of
integrating traditional balsamic vinegars as a reduction,
glaze or syrup. Learn flavor-infused olive oil techniques
used in baking and sautéing and taste the marvelous
marinades and emulsions he gets as he combines flavors.
Fresh Take on Sauces – Take a break from traditional
rich French sauces and learn techniques from Cheryl
Janz, personal chef. Pick up tips as she creates fresh, bright
blends that add a jolt of flavor to fish, meat, vegetables,
pasta, and sandwiches without the hassle of a stove.
Simply Cupcakes – Cupcakes are so beautiful, so
delicious and so now! Learn a few secrets from Tess
Nottke, decorator and baker at Simply Cupcakes, as she
demonstrates how to fill and color, and different flavor
combinations. Have fun with frosting shots to test your
knowledge of different icings, frostings, and fillings.

Tricia PhelpsTricia Phelps of the local food blog Growth by the Season attended the 2013 NMC Festival of Foods and created this excellent photo feature about her experience that she was kind enough to share with us and all of you!

Be sure to click through to her blog to subscribe and also follow Tricia on Facebook & Instagram!

Stay up to date with Traverse City cooking classes with the eatdrinkTC Calendar!

Pauls Paradise Cottages on Little Traverse Lake


Once on campus at Northwest Michigan College, a winding wooded path led me to the Oleson Center. It was there, tucked away in the snow covered trees, that I attended NMC’s Fifth Annual Festival of Foods.  Last week prior to the event, I posted here about my conversations with Julie Doyal who plans the Festival of Foods on behalf of NMC’s Extended Education Program. She was absolutely right, when she spoke of the vibrant personalities she chose to lead the individual sessions. I found myself laughing out loud at the jokes and insightful witty comments the chefs would make, while totally enthralled in their demonstrations and engaging conversation.


Each session I attended was completely different than the one prior, but the common thread was a passionate friendly chef leading the demonstration and the variety of helpful tips & tricks I learned along the way.  There is no way I could transpose all the details; the smells, tastes and incredible inviting atmosphere of the Festival of Foods, because experiencing it yourself is the only way you’ll truly understand. However, I kept track of the numerous CHEFS TIPS that were shared throughout the four sessions I attended and now I’d like to share them with you.

Session 1: ‘Breakfast on the Farm’ with Jonathan Dayton & Stephanie Wiitala

Jonathan-Dayton-cooking-classThese two demonstrators are both from The Inn at Black Star Farms. Jon is the Executive Chef and Stephanie is a Pastry Chef, with her own “bun in the oven” as she put it. Their chemistry in life and in the kitchen is both obvious and entirely endearing. As the Inn is a year-round bed & breakfast, these two were the perfect pair to lead my first morning session.


  • Nothing compares to a Farm Fresh Egg! (SO true)
  • How can you tell the difference between an old & new egg? An old egg will float in water, while a newer egg will sink.
  • Take all your ingredients out before you start to cook, that way you have everything at your fingertips while you’re preparing the ingredients and you know you’re not missing any important components.

Stephanie’s Easy & “Forgivable” Quiche Dough

4 c flour, 1 tsp salt, 1/2 lb butter chopped into fine bits, 1 egg, 3/4 cream

Combine & roll out to desired thickness

Fresh Eggs are the key!cutting-the-quiche

Session 2: ‘The Secret of Fresh Salsa’ with Fresia Granados

Fresia-GranadosFresia is a fiery passionate chef from Costa Rica who studied at NMC and fell in love with Northern Michigan. She works as a personal chef and its evident that she excels in all avenues of cooking in addition to holding a deep appreciation for fresh flavorful ingredients.


  • The acids in lime juice are better than lemon juice, so let your diced tomatoes “marinate” in a fresh-squeezed lime juice
  • Adding a sweet component like plantains or pineapple will really add depth to your salsa
  • How do you keep cilantro fresh in the refrigerator?
  • Wash the cilantro and divide a “bunch” into three separate sections, wrap each section in paper towel and put into an air tight plastic bag. The cilantro should stay just as fresh as the day you bought it, for a little over a week.
  • After combining all your ingredients you’ll have juice pooling at the bottom of the bowl, strain your salsa and pour this strained juice into a container. Then, use it to make the most fresh and delicious Bloody Mary you’ll ever have.


Session 3: ‘Vegetarian Tarts’ with Cheryl Janz

Vegetarian-TartsCheryl is new to Traverse City, but she and I have already connected because of her delicious baked goods she sells at local area Farmers Markets. She teaches quite a few culinary classes through the NMC Extended Education program and actually has one coming up shortly on February 20th about Gluten Free Cooking. This will be a  fabulous resource for those who may be interested in making the Gluten-free change in their diet, or simply learning more.


  • If you eat something that is too spicy for you, drinking a glass of milk (any dairy) will eliminate the spice
  • The same rule applies with making a balanced dish, if you have eggplant with a lot of spice, pair it with a ricotta cheese filling to balance the flavors
  • How do you pick the perfect eggplant? Find one that is both firm and a similar size throughout, rather than skinny up top and wide on the bottom.


Session 4: ‘Cooking without a Recipe’ with Eric Patterson & Jen Blakeslee

Eric and Jen are co-owners of The Cooks’ House in Traverse City, a restaurant praised throughout the region with an incredible commitment to fresh &  local ingredients. They’ve also co-authored their own cookbook called Cooks’ House: The Art & Soul of Sustainable Cuisine.

The two chefs are obviously an incredible pair in the kitchen and our session, the last of the afternoon, was full of laughs and a trio of incredible eats.


  • The most important ingredient in the kitchen is salt, the second is an onion
  • Learn to cook without a recipe by picking up random produce and forcing yourself to use those ingredients in a dish
  • Make every ingredient justify itself, don’t just add it, the ingredient needs to make the dish better
  • “Mouthfeel” is crucial in every dish; the contrast between sweet & spicy, hot & cold, crunchy & soft adds depth and balance to the dish
  • Should I grill a fish with the skin on or off? Generally, with a round fish you should keep the skin on and with a flat fish you shouldn’t eat the skin.


Within an hour, the chefs prepared this delicious collection of dishes and endless helpful tips about cooking without a recipe

Parsnip Soup with Fromage Blanc

Whitefish with a Radish Garnish and Seared Romaine

Grand Mariner Parfait with Sweet & Spicy Pumpkin Seed Brittle and a Vanilla Bean Foam


I truly enjoyed this past Saturday I spent at the Festival of Foods. The sessions were informative and fun, and the food… incredible.

I’ve already found myself remembering the tips I learned as I’m cooking something new, and I hope they’ll be helpful for you too.

Do you have any quick kitchen tips? Please share!

Thank you chefs, Julie Doyal & Northwestern Michigan College, you made this event one to remember!