There is an emotional tug that Chef Paul Trout feels when he talks about the origins of the Holiday Peace Table event, held each year by the Culinary Arts Department at OTC.
“It came out of a class I was teaching at Delta College in Stockton (Calif.),” Trout said. He abruptly stopped talking and excused himself with tears in his eyes.
It was at Delta College that the Peace Table idea started because of some students with violent backgrounds. It was Trout’s idea to get them to sit next to strangers they didn’t like and share a meal in order to try to solve their differences.
“We were trying to bring people together over food, trying to bring some peace,” Trout said.
The idea caught on at Delta and helped ease tensions. The chef liked it so much that he brought it to OTC when he came here six years ago.
The lunch buffet, held last week for about 150 diners, was produced by the contemporary cuisine and dining room management classes.
The students pick the menus from several different countries. This year it was Greek, Japanese and a bit of the Northeast U.S and included roasted lamb, grilled pork belly and sushi.
“The holiday peace table has been alive and well at OTC. It was designed to be a culmination of the culinary skills of the students in our programs,” said Lisa Gardner, department chair of culinary and hospitality.
“Though it is an event for these two classes, other classes participate with displays of ice carvings, decorated cakes and chocolate sculptures.”
Trout said restaurants around the country are adopting the peace table approach of open seating idea with strangers sharing a table with other strangers.
“This is more than just sitting down and having a meal. The peace table has meaning,” he said.
Students enjoyed participating in the event, too.
“I think it’s a great idea,” said Alyssa Bradley. “We bring people together. You sit with people you dont know and get to know them a bit.”
Kim Holz, who worked serving in the buffet line, said her biggest worry was answering questions about the food.
“I just kept telling them to try it and theyll like it,” she said.
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