Since the 1960s, NAIT’s dining room has been a huge part of the Culinary Arts and Professional Food Studies. This allowed the 2nd year students to have hands-on experience in crafting delicious food and providing top quality experience. In 2005, it was renovated to provide a more modern feel while still holding on to its quality.
This is when the dining room was renamed to Ernest’s.
John Hokanson and his wife, Susan Hokanson has been more than just a huge support system to the Culinary Arts and Professional Food Studies but they have been on-going contributors to this department’s success! John wanted to honor his father, Ernest Hokanson, who lived out his lifelong passion for food throughout his years.
When I visited Ernest’s on May 25th I couldn’t help but notice the unique decor they had around the dining room.
Turns out, the majority of the decor was created by students from the Welding department.
Ernest’s holds a total of 4 kitchens where every 5 weeks they rotate 2nd-year students around so that everyone has an equal experience crafting their skills. Not only do the students rotate, but so does their menu. Both main menu as well as dessert.
Having said that, Ernest’s is the busiest once September hits bringing in new chef instructors every season. One of the Chefs in Residence, Amanda Cohen (owner of Dirt Candy) has taught students how to create delicious vegetable-only menu items. I, unfortunately, wasn’t able to taste her menu, but it’s definitely worth putting on my to-do list.
I find it fascinating how involved the students are.
This hidden gem not only allow students from the Culinary Arts program to create a menu worth lining up for but students from the Hospitality Program also have a chance to provide amazing service to all the guests eagerly wanting this unique experience. The meat that they use on Ernest’s menu comes from the Meat Cutting program (which btw, has a public shop for people to come and purchase meat as well. This too opens after September!) and the dessert is made from the students from Professional Baking and Pastry Arts. Actually, a friend of mine graduated from there and she does make really amazing treats, you can follow her on Sincerely Sydnie with her correlating Instagram account over here.
Although I may not have come to Ernest’s when the department is back in session, I still enjoyed the inviting dining room and unique experience. The service was amazing, let alone the food itself. I enjoyed learning about its history and being in awe of its decor. I personally never knew that I could receive an amazing fine dining experience in a school! And I know most people are wary about students in the kitchen, but mind you – these 2nd-year students have amazing mentors and are graded for their work.
NAIT’s Ernest’s holds events starting in August and the most popular ones are the Friday Buffets. Surprisingly, it’s only June and some of those buffet dates are already booked out! I’m so intrigued by a person’s passion that I’m looking forward to coming back and hopefully being able to sit down with a student and ask about their experience while indulging in their craft.
*all opinions and thoughts are of my own. I provide 100% transparency and honesty.