Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 9/1/2013 (1504 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Just try to resist the seductive scent of fresh baking wafting throughout the Exchange District and the heart of downtown.
Go ahead -- just try.
And once that smell lures you inside the grandeur of the oldest skyscraper in Winnipeg, what are the chances you won't want to sit amid marble splendour and enjoy fine dining prepared by aspiring chefs whom you can watch and even chat up as they prepare your meal?
Words such as grandeur and splendour haven't been used in the same sentence as Union Bank Tower for a very, very long time.
There's nary a pigeon carcass left in the 1904 skyscraper across the corner from city hall on Main Street.
Officially, it's the Paterson Global Foods Institute, housing the hospitality and culinary arts programs of Red River College and six floors of student residences. The official opening is Feb. 21. But as tradespeople finish the conversion of the enormous banking section into Jane's restaurant, 30 students have already moved into residence and 300 students are in a state-of-the-art school with opulent kitchens spread over several floors, learning everything from how to bake delicate European pastries, to cooking veal and fresh fish, to tasting wine and beer and spirits to see what goes best with a particular dish.
No, seriously, drinking beer counts as going to school for a post-secondary education.
There are separate programs in culinary arts, hotel and restaurant management, tourism, baking and pastry arts and apprenticeship.
"In a way, we spoil the students," who won't see this range of equipment and facilities anywhere they end up working, said dean Keith Muller.
Who knew a tandoori oven is so small?
"We're the second one in Canada to have one," said Muller, the other school is George Brown College in Toronto, from whence came Muller to preside over the RRC kitchens.
The 105-seat restaurant will initially be open Tuesday to Friday for lunch and dinner, all the cooking and serving and hosting handled by students. Everything in the restaurant, named after the mother of major donor Andrew Paterson -- the marble, pillars, grates, the columns, cornices, moulded ceiling -- has been recovered from the building that sat vacant for decades.
"We've turned learning inside out -- people can see what the students are doing," Muller said. "Their instructors will be guiding and grading them.
"All the daily specials are created by the students. You can converse with the students; we'll even give you a recipe if you ask for it," he said.
On the south side of the building, in what was once Bogart's nightclub, there's a café with the same open-kitchen concept.
"In the summer, we'll have a patio on Bijou Lane," the space otherwise known as a somewhat spiffy alley. And there will be an espresso bar.
Upstairs, Cameron Tait runs the chef-apprenticeship program, whose kitchen is also used for research by companies such as Granny's Poultry.
There's a patio, and each week Tait's students will hold a chef's table and receptions.
A chef's table?
"A gourmet dinner of six to eight courses. They book within 20 minutes of me sending out the email," said Tait.
Everything happens right in the kitchen, a table for the gourmet dinner, while "a grazing would be a standup, really nice and casual."
Muller said the culinary-arts space at the Notre Dame campus was a dungeon by comparison.
Red River College has restored 50,000 square feet and added 40,000 square feet on the space once occupied by the Leland Hotel.
"Everything's shiny new. I'll be stoked when we start working," said student Aaron Clark, a Kelvin High School graduate.
Notre Dame's classroom and kitchen space "was in the basement, no windows," said Daniel Devlin, a Collège Jeanne-Sauvé grad.
"It's definitely exciting being down here. It'll be a little more pressure," taking classes in the later stages of the program by cooking under the scrutiny of paying customers, but worth it, he said.
Each floor of the culinary program has replaced brick walls with large windows, not only offering stunning views of downtown Winnipeg but also allowing downtown Winnipeg to watch students perform kitchen magic.
Take a video tour of the new school at www.winnipegfreepress.com.
Archive video from April 27, 2012 of the construction progress on the Paterson Global Foods Institute.