Traditional Tonkotsu ramen features both chicken and pork.
A group of culinary students from Madison College will combine a lesson in off-premise catering with community service this weekend by serving up bowls of authentic Tonkotsu ramen for Madison’s homeless community.
Chef instructor Joe Gaglio connected with Friends of State Street, an outreach group that provides meals every Saturday, and presented the idea to his class of 35 students. They cook for a variety of events and clients throughout the school year, but this is the first time the group has provided a meal, free of charge, to the homeless.
“We believe in community connections,” says Gaglio, who has been an instructor at Madison College since 1999 and also owns Gotham Bagels. “People who need the food will get a beautiful hot meal, and [the students] get to learn something valuable and make a really great dish.”
The students will start setting up at the top of State Street in Philosopher’s Park at about 2:45 p.m. on Saturday afternoon and begin serving at about 3 p.m. They’re making enough to serve 200 people.
Right down to the broth, the students are making everything from scratch. The dish will feature pork, chicken and pork belly, as well as shitake mushrooms and noodles. Students have been working hard to prepare the dish, with their prep work beginning last Tuesday. It’s a relatively inexpensive dish, but the labor that has gone into the preparation has been extensive, Gaglio says.
The event gives the students a chance to practice real-world skills in off-premise catering — getting the dish packed, loading up the catering van, setting up at the meal site and being prepared to serve however many people show up on Saturday. Rain or shine, the ramen will be ready.
But beyond education, the meal will provide students with an opportunity to affect their local community. In a city with as rich a culinary tradition as Madison’s, shouldn’t the neediest residents get to enjoy a seat at the table?
“Many students are so excited that we’re not just making food for some sort of corporate event,” Gaglio says. “It’s about the experience; it’s about giving back.”