Culinary Arts Center at Hilton Head; a Delightful Dining Experience

         Every once in a while, something comes along that penetrates my ongoing Blog-Writer’s-Block condition (thank goodness The Vacation Company keeps bringing me fabulous vacation rentals and special deals to write about).  Today’s block-breaker has to be the current best-kept foodie secret on the island.  The Culinary Arts Center (CAC) at Hilton Head Health (H3) located just inside the Shipyard gate from Pope Avenue, is open to the public for all kinds of tasty events that will leave you feeling sated and, a bit more cerebral about food, even if your only expertise heretofore was throwing chicken breasts on the George Foreman.   

Executive Chef Jen Welper Answers Questions at the Wednesday Night Chef's Table

       This season is the introduction of the CAC at Hilton Head Health as a separate entity and open to the public.  Their mission states, “the Culinary Arts Center… is a state-of-the-art kitchen designed to enhance the overall culinary experience, while educating you how to prepare healthy, gourmet cuisine in a comfortable and warm environment”.  Meaning that, more than chef’s dinners, guests can enjoy themed dinners, such as Date Night (every other Saturday, 5:30-9:00 pm) where the chef takes you through a romantic three-course meal for two in an interactive atmosphere.  There is also an interactive cooking class on (Thursdays and Sundays from 2:00 – 3:30 pm).  And every other Saturday, a hands-on session packed with strategies for creating low-calorie meals to fit into an everyday schedule.  This one covers a variety of themes, such as ethnic cuisine, as well as seasonal and holiday foods.  

       Recently, I had the pleasure of experiencing the Chef’s Table, held every other Wednesday at 6:00 pm, at H3’s soft-lit restaurant.  There were about ten other guests with me sitting comfortably around a large, polished-granite countertop facing an unpretentious looking (yet highly efficient), state-of-the-art kitchen, while Executive Chef, Jen Welper, prepared our three-course meal.  I’ve attended chef’s table dinners before, all of which were wonderful, however, intimidating.  Such was not the case at the Culinary Arts Center, and the experience was exceptional. 

       And while Chef Welper explained what she was preparing, the head server, Lauraa introduced the wine pairings prior to each course, describing it perfectly and why it was selected for the course.  Especially useful were the recipe packet describing the dinner (including the sides, like the grilled asparagus) and extra page listing the wines, including an image of the label (very helpful when shopping for it) and brief description.  All in all, a very thorough presentation without taking the fun out of the experience.        

Full View of Chef's Table & Restaurant

     Several servers quietly delivered our dishes and kept the bar clean while we interacted with each other and the chef, who graciously answered all of our questions without making any of us feel stupid (this thoughtful behavior, I happen to know from my own extensive hospitality experience, is quite a challenge for an executive chef).  Many guests brought pencil and paper, as they were here taking part in the H3 program.  However, the materials we were given were so thorough, it made note-taking redundant.  The menu this night was simple fare, yet delicious and savory and extremely fresh-tasting:  turkey bacon-wrapped scallops to start, followed by grilled herb-rubbed filet, and crowned with vanilla bean crème brulee.  All the ingredients are geared towards helping guests develop healthy eating habits, without sacrificing flavor.   

              The best part about all of this is that a DISCOUNT IS OFFERED IF YOU ARE A GUEST OF  The Vacation Company!  So, don’t wait for a rainy day, these classes don’t take that long and are really fun besides being informative.  Questions? Call 843.785.3919 for information and reservations. Or, visit their website for more details. Address:  14 Valencia Road,  Hilton Head Island, SC 29928

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