An Education in Dining Out

Kevin Dunn guides students
Associate professor Kevin Dunn guides students, Ryan Guareno, Ellery Schaftenaar and Raul Ortiz at the Secchia Institute for Culinary Education. Photography by Michael Buck

CABLE TELEVISION, culinary festivals and social media have amplified interest in “foodie” adventures and activities.

In Michigan, foodies are blessed with more than a dozen colleges and universities offering culinary programs. Here, future chefs of all ages and from all walks of life learn everything from knife skills to pastry tips to plating presentations and menu planning. A handful of these schools also run restaurants where students can put their education to immediate use — and where even the savviest of diners can enjoy the finest of meals.

The Les Cheneaux Culinary School ( opened in Hessel in September 2014. This state-of-the-art boutique facility operates with a mere six-eight students and a dedicated faculty running its 80-seat restaurant overlooking northern Lake Huron and the famed Les Cheneaux Islands.

Local is a focus for Program Director and Executive Chef Zach Schroeder, a native of the Upper Peninsula and a graduate of the Great Lakes Culinary Institute in Traverse City. The ever-changing menu identifies where the ingredients are sourced, like shrimp from the Shrimp Farm in Okemos and maple syrup from Tassier Sugar Bush in Cedarville.

This restaurant serves lunch and dinner Mondays through Saturdays from May through early September. Reservations are advised by calling (906) 484-4800.

Lobdell’s: A Teaching Restaurant ( is the shining star of the Great Lakes Culinary Institute at Northwestern Michigan College in Traverse City. Perched on the upper level of the Hagerty Center on the shores of Grand Traverse Bay, this 90-seat restaurant is named in honor of longtime college supporters Wayne and Terry Lobdell and is under the direction of Chef Fred Laughlin.

Students here hone their skills in four training kitchens, including a bakery, where they develop and serve appetizers, soups, salads, sandwiches, entrees and desserts. When possible, ingredients are sourced from local growers, farmers and producers.

Lobdell’s is open for lunch on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays during the fall and spring semesters. Reservations are recommended by calling (231) 995-3120.

Dining Setting
Photography courtesy Thinkstock

A fine dining experience with views of downtown Grand Rapids awaits at The Heritage Restaurant — the crown jewel of the Secchia Institute for Culinary Education at Grand Rapids Community College ( This award-winning program has been accredited each year by the American Culinary Federation since its inception more than 30 years ago.

Students work toward associate degrees, and gain real-world experience by running both the kitchen and the restaurant — preparing and serving meals as well as busing tables and doing dishes. The program operates under Chef Dan Gendler and a team of world-class culinary leaders.

The seasonal menu at The Heritage resembles what you’d find at the finest restaurants around the world, including duck confit and waffles, potato gnocchi, osso bucco and striped bass among many other popular offerings.

The Heritage is open for lunch and dinner during the school year, on a limited schedule published online. Reservations are recommended by calling (616) 234-3700.

American Harvest Restaurant ( at Schoolcraft Community College in Livonia has received national and international acclaim for its mouthwatering menu served up in a $27 million state-of-the-art teaching facility in the suburbs of Detroit.

Eight award-winning chefs coach first- and second-year culinary students in all aspects of classically inspired American cuisine, including house-made charcuterie, soups, salads, creative entrees, artisan breads and French pastries. Beer and wine are also served.

Open during the fall and winter semesters, American Harvest serves a breakfast buffet Wednesday through Friday, lunch Tuesdays through Thursdays, and themed dinner buffets Thursdays and Fridays. Reservations are recommended by calling (734) 462-4488 or via

Additional culinary school-operated restaurants

Hours and seasons vary. Please verify ahead of time before planning a visit.

Fifty-One O One (5101)
Henry Ford College Culinary Arts & Student Center
Dearborn; (313) 206-5101

Garrett’s Restaurant
Washtenaw Community College
Ann Arbor; (734) 973-3592

Reflections Restaurant
Oakland Community College
Bloomfield Hills

Center Stage Restaurant
Macomb Community College
Clinton Township; (586) 286-2023

Courses Restaurant
Culinary Institute of Michigan at Baker College
Muskegon; (231) 777-6610

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