Students Create an Inclusive Culinary Experience: Dining in the Dark at Madison College

Diners enjoy food that was prepared and served by students in the culinary program at Madison College.

Delicious food and a multi-sensory eating experience without sight are par for the course when it comes to the Council’s Dining in the Dark events. Diners enjoy a meal while blindfolded, and are not told what they will be eating until the plate is set before them. This enables them to enjoy the food with more than just their eyes, with texture, taste and smell playing a role in the dining experience.

On March 26, Madison College hosted a Dining in the Dark lunch for interested faculty and staff.

“This was an opportunity to eat a wonderful meal with the added bonus of trying a new experience and gaining a different perspective,” says a participant.

Council staff provided culinary students with a training the day before the meal on serving techniques, including best practices for serving a guest who is blind or visually impaired. These encompassed adaptations such as announcing from which direction they were coming with the plate of food before setting it down, and how to lay out the place setting in a way that could be easily determined tactilely. The culinary students were given an opportunity to apply these plating and serving adaptive techniques the next day at the event. This Dining in the Dark event created a unique approach, providing the students with a powerful opportunity to implement these new skills, which they can retain and utilize in their culinary career.

“[Our students] will encounter people who are blind or visually impaired out in the service industry,” says Chef Paul Short, culinary program director at Madison College. “We need to make sure they are prepared to make dining an inclusive experience.”

Roughly 40 faculty and staff from Madison College attended the event, and the menu included an amuse bouche of stuffed mushroom, roasted cauliflower soup, a choice between either trout or rabbit for the main course, and a pithivier with franzipan and homemade cherry almond ice cream for dessert.

“I really enjoyed experiencing the delicious food without visual cues,” says a participant.

Watch Council publications for upcoming Dining in the Dark events or visit WCBlind.org/events to recommend a restaurant that you have a direct connection to.

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