Sustainability: Dining at Chez Lena
Chez Lena may be the best kept dining secret in the Grand Valley, and I have the perfect excuse for writing a shameless plug since this excellent eatery is also a shining example of an eco-friendly restaurant.
Located on the Western Colorado Community College campus, 2508 Blichmann Ave., in Grand Junction, Chez Lena provides instruction and hands-on restaurant experience for students in the WCCC Culinary Arts Program.
“We believe it is important to support efforts to protect our environment, treat animals humanely, pay farmers a fair wage and provide consumers healthy and flavorful food options in a world that is too often at odds with these practices,” explained Dan Kirby, program coordinator.
Kirby has the pleasure of working with two certified executive chefs, Wayne Smith and Jon St. Peter.
Angie Arreola is queen of the dining room, or “front of the house” in restaurant parlance, and makes sure the servers create a magical culinary atmosphere.
The staff at Chez Lena goes out of its way to fill the menu with innovative and delicious seasonal dishes using fresh local items. Frequently, students are taken to local farmers markets and organic and/or sustainably farmed products are purchased whenever possible.
Motivated by a strong commitment to Buy Colorado, many of the grocery ingredients come from wholesale companies working exclusively with Colorado farmers. In the program’s purchasing class, students often tour farms, ranches or processing facilities.
The list of Colorado products includes: Western Slope Meadow Gold dairy products; locally-grown tomatoes, potatoes, peaches, apricots and cherries; locally-raised lamb and beef; and Red Bird Farms chicken, raised and processed in our state.
For the last two years, Chez Lena has maintained an exceedingly high-level of cleanliness using the Apex line of environmentally-friendly cleaning products by EcoLab, a company pledging to make ongoing reductions in its carbon footprint.
Recycling is just part of the routine at the school for apprentice chefs since the program has recycled aluminum, paper, cardboard, glass and plastic for more than seven years.
Compostable tasting spoons are used in all cooking labs, and even to-go containers for guests are made of compostable materials.
During warmer weather, students learn to save kitchen waste, which is shared with local gardeners for composting.
Chef St. Peter hopes to find a grant so the program can create an on-site composting area and later expand to raised beds for growing herbs
Chez Lena has limited hours, booking tables for lunch only from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays when school is in session.
Reservations are recommended and can be made by calling 255-2641, where you can also request e-mail updates.
For information about the award-winning culinary program, go to http://www.mesastate.edu/wccc/culinary.html.
Next week, I’ll introduce you to a student from the culinary arts program who is going for the green.