September 19, 2018

Learning by doing. It’s the approach East Central College Culinary Arts Instructor Mike Palazzola uses with students every day.

“We recognized there was something missing from our culinary classrooms,” Palazzola said, “We needed real life experiences in real time.”

The award-winning chef, along with former culinary instructor Ted Hirschi, came up with a solution – The Restaurant at Prairie Dell. Managed by the East Central College Culinary Arts Program, the limited-run restaurant gives students hands-on experience at running an establishment of their own.

“Students are responsible for scheduling, production, staff management and the handling of revenue,” Palazzola explained. “It is a great opportunity for them to learn processes and standards they will encounter in the hospitality industry.”

“The restaurant has been extremely popular not only with our staff but in the community,” said Jay Scherder, Director of Public Relations. “You get excellent service, gourmet food and a small bill. At the same time, we are providing a unique, educational experience to our students.”

Palazzola is now being recognized for the project by the Missouri Community Colleges Association (MCCA). We are proud to announce he was honored with the Mel Aytes Faculty Innovation Award in 2018! It is given to only one community college faculty member each year in Missouri.

“I’m extremely humbled by the award,” said Palazzola. “The Restaurant at Prairie Dell was a collaborative effort, and it’s the students who truly make it so special.”

He will be recognized at the annual MCCA Award & Recognition Ceremony in Branson, Missouri on Friday, November 9.

Congrats to this amazing chef and instructor!





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