The Food Guy: Waterleaf helmed by the College of DuPage culinary students

There’s a restaurant in the western suburbs where the cooks are encouraged to make mistakes, as long as they learn from them. That’s because the cooks – and servers – are in college.

The College of DuPage has an enormous campus in Glen Ellyn. A big chunk is dedicated to teaching hospitality; they even have a full-service hotel. But it’s the restaurant where you’ll find some truly great deals.

Hidden away on the campus, there’s a hotel with a handful of restaurants, including their crown jewel – Waterleaf.

 “The goal is for them to learn the objectives to the course so I think that that’s really important,” said Mary Beth Leone, a Professor of Hospitality and Tourism Management. “And this is a safe space for them, and then when they go into their workplace they’ll have the confidence they need to become a great chef or a great server. Front-of-the-house servers learn to serve correctly, and the back of the house cooks the food, and the two classes have to work together, and it’s really a great learning experience for them.”

Menus change frequently – International, Vegetarian, Steakhouse…and on this day, Regional American, specifically, New England. That means clam chowder; maybe a salad with pears, cranberries and walnuts, or one with arugula and frisee, roasted beets and mushrooms. Entrees range from chicken pot pie with root vegetables to cod that’s poached in white wine with sautéed spinach. Instructors oversee both the front-of-the-house and expedite dishes in the kitchen.

“Really allows for the students to get the feel for what it’s like, to be in an industry – in a safe environment – where they’re learning. And they can make mistakes, and that’s ok. Because we want them to be prepared when they go,” said Leone.

And it’s hard to complain about that under seasoned or overcooked dish here. A four-course lunch, including dessert, runs $20 – that includes tax and tipping is not allowed. Dinners range from $20-50 for five courses.

There is also a grab-and-go counter and a more casual café on site, but for Waterleaf, you do want to make reservations on Open Table.

Here’s where you can go:

Waterleaf at the College of DuPage

425 Fawell Blvd., Glen Ellyn


For reservations, click here.

Head here for more information about the restaurant and the college’s culinary program.

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