Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Culinary Arts Museum at Johnson & Wales University

A few weeks ago I visited the Culinary Arts Museum at Johnson & Wales University for the first time with my food writing class. We were given a wonderful private tour by the director and curator, Richard Gutman. Here are some photos. Enjoy!

Upon entering, I was greeted by this Mr. Potato Head chef statue. Hasbro toy company is headquartered in Rhode Island and about 11 years ago they placed about 47 various themed Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head statues around the state to promote tourism. Most have since been removed but the museum has two.

Foods unique to Rhode Island:
Munroe Dairy's popular cow truck. Milk still gets delivered to your door today in glass containers if you want, along with food from other local businesses and farmers. Munroe delivers to our home once a week and I just love it! This mini version was made for the owner's children which they could actually drive.

The recipe for Rhode Island's famous Del's Lemonade originated in Italy in the 1840s.

Autocrat coffee syrup has been made by a family owned business since 1895. Coffee Milk, like chocolate milk but made with coffee syrup, is typically made with Autocrat's coffee syrup and is so popular that it became Rhode Island's official State Drink in 1993.

Ahhh, Rhode Island's Coffee Cabinet. No, it's not a cabinet painted in a mocha shade of brown. It's a coffee flavored milkshake made with ice cream and, in Rhode Island, many prefer to make it with Autocrat coffee syrup. I'm not sure where the name originated from because I found two different stories: 1) Coffee Cabinet is a name made popular by creative diner and drugstore operators, and 2) it's called a cabinet because the originator kept the blender in a cabinet.

Kenyon's Grist Mill, in Usquepaugh, Rhode Island, still grinds the finest corn meal, meals, and flours from an 1886 building and from the same location where they started back in 1696.

Rhode Island Johnnycakes have a long history in Rhode Island, dating back to the pilgrims. The recipe is basic, but when eaten with butter and maple syrup, it's oh so good. If you're looking for a recipe, check out Kenyon's Grist Mill or my Rhode Island Johnnycake post.

And, of course, Rhode Island being the ocean state, we love our seafood and have our unique seafood dishes like stuffies (quahogs with bread stuffing), clams casino (a popular Rhode Island appetizer), clam cakes (similar to fritters) and clam bakes.

Aunt Carrie's, www.auntcarriesri, is still in Narragansett today
A thing of the past. Large shore dinner halls were popular family style
seafood restaurants at Crescent Park and Rocky Point amusement parks.
George's Of Galilee,,
overlooks Block Island Sound and
serves fresh seafood right from the docks.
I remember The Castle Luncheonette and their famous fries! It's still there today, but was updated after a fire. Growing up, I used to sneak around to the back to get a peek at the employees hand-peeling potatoes by the baskets full.

A very popular Woonsocket food is the dynamite. A dynamite is a sandwich like a Sloppy Joe except it's a spicy meat sauce with tomatoes, onions and peppers and served in a "torpedo" roll. Dynamites were always made in big batches to feed large crowds at family events, outings, and festivals and still are today. 

"I'll have mine all the way" is what I'd say when I ordered a New York System Weiner. The dogs are boiled and the buns are steamed. Dressing these weiners starts with a generous amount of a spicy meat sauce, laying a long squirt of mustard over the top, loading on chopped onions and several shakes of celery salt. Ordering "all the way" means add all these toppings. If you're hungry for a weiner, check out Fork In The Rhode's NY System Weiner restaurant review for a place to eat.

After the Rhode Island section, we viewed many interesting culinary items. There's a vast assortment of culinary tools, photos, biographies, and much more that I didn't photograph.

Here are installations of actual bars. The first one is the Tap Room, c. 1833, from Stoddard, New Hampshire, and the second is a beautiful art deco bar. Both are used by Johnston & Wales University students for events.

Here are photos of some of the museum's collections.

This exhibit is called Food On The Move. It's about the development of food as the travel industry grew in the United States. And, again, the collection is much larger than what I'm showing.

Food service on a train
Food delivered to your car

A ship's stove

Pasta making machines. This sign is for the famous historic Italian Camille's restaurant located in Providence, Rhode Island.

Food competitions
This is the Country Fair to Culinary Olympics area. There are so many food competitions today and I never thought about the connection to country fairs. 

I'll have a "mug of murk, some elephant dandruff and two dots and a dash".  That's diner slang from the museum's brochure. The museum has a big section about diners and I enjoyed hearing the curator's stories. Richard started his very impressive and varied culinary career as a diner architecture consultant and through his large collection he provided the musuem with many diner artifacts.

Children can come and act out in this mini diner
Historical diner installation

Vintage books and ancient vessels
We got a sneak peek of the library. We tried to search for the oldest book. This wasn't it, but it's pretty old dating back to 1803! Speaking of old stuff, there's a room full of ancient food vessels. Because the items are on loan from private collectors, photography was restricted. And there's a very interesting food time line, photos and stories of archeological digs. What intrigued me about the archeological digs is how techniques are being used today to extract ingredients of foods that were stored in those vessels in order to recreate ancient recipes. 

At the movies!
This beautiful vintage steam table was manufactured in Providence, Rhode Island, in the 1920's and was in the First Universalist Church of Woonsocket. It was recently used in the filming of "Mildred Pierce" an HBO mini-series starring Kate Winslet.

Hope you enjoyed your "visit"
I didn't want to reveal too much as to spoil the surprise if you get a chance to visit the museum.

An Upcoming Event
On May 5, Mark Bittman is visiting the musuem with proceeds to benefit the Rhode Island Community Food Bank and he'll be signing his book "Food Matters".  Auction items are available to purchase even if you're not going.  Visit RI Community Food Bank for more information.

Culinary Arts Museum Blog:

Photography was permitted and content of this post was approved.


  1. Haha Awesome! I graduated from JWU back in '08! I visited the Culinary Museum a couple times while I was in school

  2. I would have loved that tour! In fact, I want the curator's job! What fun. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Congratulations Jason! That's a great school.

    Rosemary, no kidding! Great job to have - I was thinking of that during the tour!

  4. That was fun! What a great idea for a post - I want to visit that museum - it looks just like my kind of thing.

  5. I'm sure you had such a wonderful time there! That museum looks really interesting!
    Btw, I want to pass these awards to you!
    Your wonderful blog inspires me...and you are one blogger who's so worthy of these awards!
    More power!

  6. Thanks all! It was so fun and interesting.

    Tina, thanks so much!!! I'll head over and pick it up. I'll write about it soon and let you know! I'm very proud to accept.

  7. Ah coffee milk....brings back memories of my college years in Rhode Island circa 1989. Sounds like a fun exhibit.

  8. Fun memories! I actually haven't had a coffee milk in a while - I'm thinking about getting some Autocrat again!

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  11. All these years of living in Rhode Island, going to museum's in Rhode Island but have yet to check this one out. Putting it on my summer places to visit list! Thanks Lin Ann. I have to say my favorite is Del's lemonade which most locations are already open and I'm loving it!

  12. Que lindo post ,no me imaginaba que había un grandioso museo de de arte culinario,muy interesante,me llamó la atención las cocinas antiguas económicas se llaman acá ,en el sur de Chile,aún mucha gente tiene de éstas cocina artefacto,cariños.

  13. Ah, excellent romp through Rhode Island's gastronomic history! You know that one of my great aunts worked at the Castle? Extra fries, baby!
    And those books.... oooohhhh... I would have spent hours in there. ;)