Taste | Seasons Restaurant at Art Institute
By: Chef Alex Rivas
Heading out to San Bernardino for my next taste at the Seasons Restaurant, which is part of the Art Institute, memories flooded to mind of my time in culinary school. Navigating the streets towards the school and restaurant, you can see many of the students currently attending classes at the time taking a break. The jealousy I have, what I wouldn't do to be back in school cooking for fun and feeling that budding passion and respect for food all over again.
Arriving at the Seasons Restaurant, I was introduced to Desi, a woman with many hats but humbly goes with the title of faculty staff. She took the time to give us some background of the school and the restaurant. Seasons Restaurant is a final stage of the culinary program. Here students are craftfully creating meals for everyday customers, all led by a very skilled and friendly instructor named Chef Tucker. Every quarter starts a new batch of students, and with that the menu is changed, giving good reason for the restaurant's name Seasons.
While looking over the menu, I couldn't help but be amazed at the variety of options along with the amazing prices for the quality of the dishes. Main dishes start as little as $8, including sides. I wanted to order everything on the menu, if only I had the space. I went with trying the Pizza Fries, which at my surprise had an amazingly large crunchy texture from the beer battered pizza dough. I couldn't get enough of the bursting fresh tomato marinara sauce that it came with to dip, as well as the parmesan cheese that topped it off. This was my favorite out of the three appetizers I tried. The Buffalo Chicken Wings had a nice zesty flavor making me want Sunday night football to be back already, and the Shrimp Brulee came with Italian bread, perfect for soaking up the garlic herb butter, pepper jack and romano cheese blend. With a great start, I was surely looking forward to entrees.
As I waited for the entrees to arrive, we learned that every Wednesday the restaurant hosts an action station. It is a buffet that changes, and this week we had the pleasure of tasting a little bit of the Flank Steak being carved to order, alongside mashed potatoes, white rice and sauteed vegetables. Entrees were ready, and I glanced at the beautiful Seared Salmon & Bacon Wrapped Pinwheel that I ordered. I didn't know if I should eat it or frame it! Amazed by the presentation, I couldn't wait to dig in to try it. Honestly, I love bacon . . . but the hero of this dish was the expertly cooked salmon. It tasted as beautifully as it looked. Layered with flavor, the nice bitter bell peppers stood out and paired nicely with the citrus cranberry sauce that dripped down my bacon wrapped salmon.
My next dish the Season’s Mile High Burger, which mile high was what it looked like. It surprisingly came with two large patties, and suddenly I did not know how I would be expected to drive home following this massive burger. It came with your familiar condiments, but what made this burger great was the skillful execution and great seasoning. I couldn't get enough of the canon back potato fries that came paired with it, and I kept thinking to myself that I should make a reservation here every week.
One of the guests with me this afternoon was a vegetarian, so we had to try the Vegetarian Panini for veggie's sake. Now I am not sure if they lied on the menu or if it was just my palate telling me it wanted it to be meat, but this Vegetarian Panini held its own. It had a nice salty and peppery taste to it, and all the eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash, and bell pepper pressed inside a nice and toasty bread, giving it a nice meaty taste to it, almost like roast beef itself. The chipotle mayo and provolone cheese gave it a nice creaminess, and it made me think, “Hey, with a sandwich like this, even I could be a vegetarian!” Okay, so I couldn't be a vegetarian—but hey, more power to those who are. Either way, I can see myself ordering this regularly every now and then.
After an amazing meal, I had the privilege to speak with Chef Tucker. I asked for more details about the dishes he served us, and I got the opportunity to find out just how passionate he is about what he does at the school. He takes time to teach students lost arts, for example how to carve beautiful masterpieces out of watermelon. Along with the growing trend and requests for vegetarian dishes, Chef Tucker takes time out of his busy schedule to teach his students how every type of cuisine has vegetarian dishes, and that is why you can come to expect Seasons to always have somthing delicious and unique for everyone.
We ended our great taste with the daily dessert selection. What was it, you ask? A perfect carrot cake with citrus cream cheese frosting—one of my favorite desserts, as I am normally not a sweets-loving type of person. My experience at the Art Institute was one I soon will not forget, as it reminded me of all the joy I had going to school and all the craftsmanship that goes into each and every dish. I will be returning soon, maybe even with my oldest daughter who seems to follow in my path. She would love to see the school, as she also strives to learn and is a very hopeful that she can go on MasterChef Junior one day. It is great to see that the future of the industry starts with the passions of those who teach it, and after meeting Desi and Chef Tucker, and tasting some delicious food, I can't wait to hear more of what the students and staff have next season at Seasons Restaurant in San Bernardino.
For more information about Seasons Restaurant, or to make a reservation, check out their website or call 909-915-2170. Thank you to Art Institute for inviting us.