Culinary Institute’s Gourmet Dinners Impress

A pumpkin pastry made by ICI students rounded out one of the year’s five-course gourmet dinners. Photo: Karla Boetel

Writer: Karla Walsh

If you’re craving the flavors of another part of the world (but not all the COVID-19 testing, travel stresses, variant risks, expense and more), an excellent alternative can be found in Ankeny.

Not only is the price right compared with a plane ticket or hotel stay—it’s just $120 per person for four-plus courses with wine pairings, including tax and gratuity—but that rate goes to support the students enrolled in the Iowa Culinary Institute at Des Moines Area Community College. And that’s the best part: The students execute the dishes and serve the food and wine, all under the guidance of executive chef and professor Karla Boetel.

Each spring and fall, the ICI hosts a series of Gourmet Dinners that highlight the cuisines of three or four different regions. Recent focus areas have included Italy, Canada, Indonesia and Korea. While preparing to bring the recipes to life, the students learn spices, sauces and techniques that are prominent in that area. At the same time, ICI staff members choose wines from that region that accentuate certain ingredients in the dishes.

My friends and I experienced two of the dinners in the fall 2021 series—Spain and Australia—and we were blown away by the poise and professionalism of the students and the leadership of chef Boetel and her culinary instructor team.

I hope you’ve had lunch, because even reading this menu is wishing I could enjoy it all over again:

  • Queso frito, mojo rojo, herbed goat cheese, stuffed peppadew and pine nuts.
  • Grilled grouper, mojo verde, salted potatoes, charred Brussels sprouts, tomatoes.
  • Granizado de limon.
  • Roasted pork belly, Spanish vermouth jus, pickled onion, squash, mushroom fideua, charred  padron peppers served with sweet egg bread.
  • Pumpkin pastry, brown sugar cinnamon cream, goat milk.

ICI is on holiday break, but they will be back for spring 2022 with a new slate of regions to explore. All dinners take place in ICI’s Lakeview Dining Room on the DMACC Ankeny Campus, and seats go fast. To be among the first to know about upcoming opportunities, email Kristi Miller at to join the mailing list.

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