The Chef’s Garden at CIV

Caesar salad prepared from The Chef's Garden

Angela Blue

The Culinary Institute of Virginia is growing.

No, I don’t mean another location, although they did extend their culinary reach to the Peninsula recently with the opening of a second campus in City Center at Oyster Point, Newport News.

I mean they’re literally growing—tomatoes, lettuce, green peppers and herbs behind the building of their Norfolk campus on Almeda Avenue. It’s all part of The Chef’s Garden, created to bring the spirit of the farm-to-table movement right to the forefront of culinary education. The plants are grown through techniques of hydroculture (all water and no soil), which reduces exposure to contaminants found in soil, takes less time for plants to mature and requires less water.

Inside, the 1,800-square-foot greenhouse is divided into sections. To the right are tomato plants that will one day reach higher than 40 feet, along with a healthy selection of eggplants, bell peppers and even tomatillos that resemble tiny hot air balloons.

tomatoes tomatillos

The left side is reserved for herbs and flawless heads of various types of lettuce, each displaying their own vibrant hue of green and each bursting with freshness. I get a true taste of this freshness upon biting into a sorrel leaf, citrusy and tangy with a little zing at the end.


That’s not the only sample I had from the garden. To celebrate their bountiful success, CIV hosted a Garden Party on Monday, Sept. 15 where they served delectable bites, each prepared with ingredients straight from the garden. I started with a tiny Caesar salad served in an edible, cheesy bowl and topped with a crouton. After that was a whirlwind of servers bringing out small samples of tomato soup shooters topped with olives and feta, eggplant tapenade on crostini and fried green tomatoes topped with a luscious sorrel pesto and sprinkled with pine nuts.

Tomato soup shooters eggplant fried green tomato

A trio of fresh herb truffles rounded out the evening.


To learn more about The Chef’s Garden, visit the Culinary Institute’s website or Facebook page, and look for more fresh details in a future issue of Coastal Virginia Magazine.

Add your comment: