A fine dining experience at Winnipeg’s Red River College culinary school restaurant
There is nothing “Plain Jane” about Jane’s Restaurant in Winnipeg, Manitoba. From its elegant setting in what was once an early-twentieth-century banking hall to the artfully presented plates to each flavourful bite to the attentiveness of your servers, Jane’s is a first-class experience.
Jane’s Restaurant is a fine dining experience designed to provide hands-on training for Red River College Hospitality and Culinary Arts students. It is located in what is believed to be the country’s oldest surviving steel-framed and reinforced concrete “skyscraper”. The 10-storey building was constructed in 1903 to 1904 for Union Bank. The Royal Bank took over Union Bank in 1925 and operated a branch at this location until 1992. After standing empty for many years, the building is now renovated and re-purposed as the Paterson GlobalFoods Institute (PGFI) of Red River College.
In 2008, PGFI was formed with donations from Paterson Global Foods and the Paterson Foundation. Red River College’s Hospitality Services and Culinary Arts programs moved from the Notre Dame campus to the new, downtown PGFI facility, which includes fully modernized classrooms and a student residence. The fine dining restaurant is named in honour of lead donor Andrew Paterson’s mother, Jane.
When my husband and I arrived at the restaurant, a hostess led us to a table as we marveled at the beauty of the room. Marble Ionic columns, large arched windows, coffered ceilings in a room that must be three stories high. We had two attentive and friendly servers take care of us for the evening.
The staff at Jane’s Restaurant are second-year students, working under the guidance and direction of a hospitality instructor and a cooking instructor. During their term at the restaurant, they rotate through the various positions within the restaurant. Even the culinary students get out of the kitchen and their comfort zone to do stints as servers. One of the instructors told us it gives them a different perspective and helps them appreciate the concerns of servers.
In order to give the student a full perspective on the dining experience, they are also given chances to experience the restaurant as diners. One of our servers said she had done so the prior evening.
We watched one of our servers prepare Bananas Foster for the table beside us. It was her first flambé and she was nervous. With the guidance and encouragement of her instructor, her first attempt was a success. She had an opportunity to repeat the success when my husband ordered Bananas Foster for dessert. Unfortunately, I wasn’t quick enough with my camera to capture the flame.
I learned a few things about flambé. Although I doubt I will ever try it myself, I will share what I learned for those of you who might.
- The cart is positioned two arms length away from the customers and the server keeps the pan one arm length away from himself or herself during the flambé portion of the dish creation
- After the preparatory steps are completed and it is time for flambé, the pan is removed from the heat and tilted slightly. A small amount of rum is poured into the tilted end.
- The tilted end of the pan is set back on the heat. The alcohol is concentrated in the end of the pan touching the heat and a flame shoots up. The pan is then set flat on the burner and the flame quickly burns out.
Jane’s Restaurant is open for lunch and dinner Tuesday through Friday during the school terms. During the current session, Friday evenings feature a buffet. We were told each week would have a different theme. Worth a visit back to check it out, I think.
There is another restaurant on site as well. First-year students work in the cafeteria-style Culinary Exchange.
Have you visited Jane’s Restaurant? What did you think? Have you been to another culinary school’s restaurant?