I live in Houston and love writing reviews of the local restaurants and stores I visit with family and friends.
The Art Institute of Houston
Courses Restaurant is part of the Art Institute of Houston, located at 4140 Southwest Freeway, Houston, Texas. I had noticed the Institute before—it is a tall building on the north side of the Southwest Freeway—but I had not realized that the school had a culinary program. I had assumed that the school taught art and fashion, but I discovered that they teach many more subjects than that.
I Found It Through Groupon
I discovered this student-run restaurant when I noticed a discount coupon on Groupon. Courses Restaurant sparked my curiosity. My husband agreed to accompany me and check it out. We have now gone there twice, and we have enjoyed a three-course lunch for two for a very reasonable price. They offer those lunches on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Also offered are four-course dinners for two or four people on Thursdays and Fridays from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Reservations are required. The menu frequently changes, which makes sense. It gives aspiring chefs more opportunities to learn about different foods and how to perfect the cooking as well as the presentation of it.
Meals Prepared by Aspiring Chefs
This culinary school offers two- and four-year degrees. Subjects include the following:
- Pastry and Baking
- Culinary Arts
- Culinary Management
- Hospitality Food and Beverage Management
The student chefs learn to work in the front and back of the house, studying all aspects of food preparation and how to keep customers happy.
Our First Dining Experience
My husband and I both selected the crawfish soup and the tilapia entree. Each of us chose different desserts on our first dining visit to the Courses Restaurant. Every bite of the food was delicious, and the student chefs in training were very friendly as servers. One young man was a retired serviceman, and he was now studying to become a chef.
In looking at the Art Institute website, it appears that there is a great deal of tuition assistance for honorably discharged men and women who have served our country in uniform. That is wonderful to know.
The decor is minimal in this student-operated restaurant. The tables are widely spaced and have white linens and black napkins. According to their website, this restaurant space accommodates up to 45 people for meetings or special events. There are multiple views of the kitchen from the restaurant as well as the entrance hall.
As an artist, I am always interested in viewing art. We noticed that there was different art displayed on the walls from our first visit to the next time we decided to enjoy lunch there. A culinary instructor who was checking on us both times to see if we were satisfied with our meals informed us that students who study art at the Art Institute of Houston are the ones who create the art. Those white walls offer a splendid palette for the display of colorful art. I particularly liked the rabbit and butterfly pieces.
Our Second Dining Experience
The Zuppa Toscana may not have looked that pretty, but it was tasty, according to my husband. The soup had components of Italian sausage, potatoes, kale, and other seasonings.
My first choice selection of the hummus platter was very visually appealing, as you can readily see. I ended up taking a sizable portion of it home with me. I could have easily made a meal of just that! It had not only hummus but also some tzatziki along with pita bread and veggies.
My husband was happy with his chicken flautas served over a bed of rice. I thought that the shrimp and grits were so delicious flavored with diced red, yellow, and green peppers as well as roasted tomato and bits of bacon or pork belly.
All main selections were served in bowls on our second visit. The menu was designed by the students who were nearing the end of their term. The other entree choice from which we could have selected that day was a lamb kebob.
Usually, I do not order dessert. However, I took a few bites of the rice pudding as I had of the mixed berry parfait on our first visit. The show-stopper this time was the deconstructed tiramisu, which my husband ordered. He enjoyed it immensely for the visual effect as well as the flavor. Many people seemed to be ordering it that day.
The walls outside of Courses Restaurant have the faces of some of the graduates of this cooking school. Those featured have successful careers in Houston as well as in other parts of the country.
You may recognize Chef Charles Clark and Chef Chris Shepherd if you dine out often in Houston since they are chef-owners of local dining establishments.
If you visit the Kiawah Island Golf Resort, you might have seen or eaten one of the exquisite pastries made by Chef John Adams.
You may recognize Chef Sarah Grueneberg from her participation in Food Network and other televised competitions or have eaten in her Chicago restaurant. She has received multiple awards, as have other chefs who trained here.
If you are the type of person who likes to take chances with an ever-changing menu and enjoy eating the food of chefs who are still in training, who knows, you may meet the next superstar chef before they attain those accolades and fame.
Free parking is available in a parking garage at the back of the Art Institute of Houston.
© 2020 Peggy Woods