“The most fun part was being able to touch everything I ordered. It was like Christmas,” Perry said. Students started using the building and its brand-new equipment in January.

Imagine there was a new building in which culinary arts classes were to be taught, and it was your job to choose the cooking equipment and gadgets needed to fill the drawers and racks of the teaching kitchens.


That was the job assigned to chef Denise Perry when Lincoln Land Community College in Springfield, Ill., had a new Workforce Careers Center built. Inside is a restaurant, line kitchen, food production lab and pastry kitchen, and they all needed to be stocked.


“It was like registering for my wedding,” said Perry, 32, the school’s lead culinary instructor. She had experience stocking working kitchens when she was employed in the culinary program at Robert Morris College in the Chicago area.


Before Lincoln Land’s winter break in 2010, Perry was approached about selecting the 3,000 items the school’s new culinary center would need. She got her hands on a pile of food-related catalogs –– including US Foods, JB Prince, Sur La Table and Chef Rubber –– and started thumbing through the pages.


“In the old building (Menard Hall), we never had enough equipment for the students. Knowing there are 18 students in our classes, I did a visual walk-through of each class and what was needed,” said Perry. “In garde manger (cold dishes), we were always short on fish poachers and enamel tureen molds. And I knew from teaching that we didn’t have enough specialty pastry equipment.”


She made her list on an Excel spreadsheet: meat mallets, springform pans, balloon whisks, cake decorating stands, French bread molds, refrigerator thermometers, plates and cups, tongs, condiment dispensers, Silpat silicone mats, measuring cups, induction saucepans, sheet pans, forks and spoons, cutting boards, dough dividers, sausage stuffers, apple corers, microplane graters, tart molds, pastry bags and tips, tomato corers, serving platters, chef knives, chocolate molds, rolling pins and on and on.


“If we were making the mother sauces, I wanted each student to have a pan they could wash out and use again,” said Perry, a graduate of the Seattle Culinary Academy.


There were appliances to be chosen, such as induction ranges and refrigerators and metal countertops. And some envy-inducing items as well: Robot Coupe food processors, PacoJet frozen dessert machines and an anti-griddle that immediately freezes foods to subzero temperatures.


“We went for the industry standards, with a little bit of fun. We wanted the students to have equipment they would come across in the real world,” she said.


After many eyes reviewed the list, it was submitted to the school’s board of trustees, which approved it.


Lincoln Land Community College spokeswoman Lynn Whalen said the culinary area in the $26.1 million Workforce Careers Center is filled with $1 million worth of equipment. It arrived at the school last November and December.


“The most fun part was being able to touch everything I ordered. It was like Christmas,” Perry said. Students started using the building and its brand-new equipment in January.


There was only one thing Perry forgot to put on her list: corkscrews. But students taking wine classes need not worry because six wine-bottle openers quickly were ordered.


Food editor Kathryn Rem can be reached at kathryn.rem@sj-r.com. Follow her on Twitter @KathrynRemSJR.