It’s always fun to try and decide which is the best dish at the Grand Buffet at the Niagara Falls Culinary Institute.

Judging by the response of the near 60 attendees at a recent buffet at the most recent Grand Buffet, comprised of mostly family and friends of the chefs-in-training, the lamb chops and scallops wrapped in house-made bacon were quite popular. But an informal poll of those in attendance showed an appreciation for all the colorful and exotic dishes the students created for the buffet.

The Grand Buffets, held several times a year at the Institute, are where students are tested on their ability to make cured meats, pates, salads and hordeotres, and showcase all the other skills they learned in their “garde manger” class taught by Chef John Matwijkow,

The term garde manger” is the French term for the pantry chef or “keeper of the food,” who typically makes salads and appetizers and other cold foods. In Matwijkow’s class the students also learned to preserve meats and make bacon.

At the most recent Grand Buffet, the students proudly stood by their offerings, providing samples of the foods they prepared as part of their final grade.

“It’s a lot of work buts it’s very enjoyable to see the students final projects,” said their teacher, Matwijkow, who also teaches the ice sculpting class and whose student’s ice sculptures graced the tables where the students’ dishes were displayed.

“They take a lot of pride in their work,” he said.

Katie Mann, 19, of Albion, and her cooking partner, Tina Keyes, 23, stood proudly behind their dessert station where they were serving Drunken Berry Marscarpone and Pumpkin Mousse Marscarpone.

“I was nervous,” said Keyes about the hours preceding the event. “Bbut I feel like we have beautiful things going on everywhere, not just my station, so I’m super excited to see everyone satisfied from being here today.”

“It’s awesome,” added Mann about the Grand Buffet experience.”I love putting food out for people and it really gives you experience for the real world.”

While tickets to the Grand Buffet are typically reserved for students, family members and staff, there are sometimes tickets available for community members. For more information about the Grand Buffet, call the Niagara Falls Culinary Institute at 210-2525 or visit online at The institute is located at

28 Old Falls St. In Niagara Falls.


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