Each semester at Grand Rapids Community College a new group of energetic culinary students take on the responsibility of managing The Heritage Restaurant. But don’t let their inexperience fool you. All of the food at the Heritage is as if it’s produced from expertly trained hands – and that’s because it is.
Even though the students are just getting their feet wet in the restaurant experience, a seasoned set of veterans guides them every step of the way. One of the culinary instructors, Chef Kevin Dunn, has been at the forefront of vegan cooking for more than 30 years. He’s passing along that knowledge to the chef’s of tomorrow every year.
The menu rotates, but you’ll notice the dishes are always balanced around not just ingredients, but also techniques. This is a student run restaurant after all! All the vegan dishes are clearly marked, but there’s more than meets the eye. Servers can help you veganize many of the other dishes, or even better, ask for Chef Dunn to pop out and see you. He’s always up for talking “vegan” and is always willing to whip something up!
We often frequent the Heritage so we’ve tried quite a bit of the food. We’ve had everything from Chick’n Pot Pie and Southern Fried Tofu to Smoked Morel Mushrooms and more. Some of the more unique dishes we’ve tried:
- Mock Eel – This is Chef Dunn’s signature dish so it’s a menu regular. Students cut shiitake mushrooms precisely with scissors. The mushroom strands are then breaded, fried and bathed in a delicious sweet Asian sauce.
- Ishi Yaki Buri Bop – an Asian dish traditionally of seared yellowtail served in a stone bowl with crunchy rice, royal fern, spinach – normally served with an egg on top… the vegan egg was made using the spherification technique from mango purée
- Bunny Chow – traditionally a South African dish of curry served in a hollowed out loaf of bread
- Hi-Ya-Yakko, house made tofu served on a chilled slab of Himalayan salt with fresh ginger, wasabi, cucumber, daikon, and seaweed salad
- The Rock – the vegan option consisted of marinated mushrooms seared on a very hot rock before your eyes
The Heritage has a liquor license and there’s a brewery next door (another teaching tool for students). The students rotate stations, so your host, and server are also students. Their inexperience definitely shows at times, especially chefs who prefer to be in the kitchen, but they are all very friendly and it’s all part of the experience. The prices reflect that, easily the best deal in town for what your receive.
You will need a reservation for any lunch or dinner – easily made through Open Table. However, the restaurant is only open at certain times during the semester. The dates can be found on their website.