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Not Your Typical College Labs

While college labs are often associated with toxic chemicals, dangerous equipment and protective gear, College of DuPage is providing unprecedented learning opportunities for culinary and hospitality students in some of the most unique college labs most people will ever see-real-life casual and fine dining restaurants and an elegant boutique hotel.

Part of the 60,000 square-foot state-of-the-art Culinary and Hospitality Education Center (CHC), Waterleaf restaurant and the Inn at Water's Edge provide students with opportunities for essential hands-on practice and real-world experience in a working environment that is safe to learn in, but still maintains only the highest professional standards.

Funded by a 2002 voter-approved referendum, the CHC also includes the Wheat Café, a student run casual dining restaurant, and the Culinary Market, which features selections created by culinary students. In addition, the CHC features a cutting-edge skills kitchen, two baking labs and an environmentally controlled chocolate room for confectioners, classroom space, a culinary amphitheater and a commercial laundry facility for hospitality students.

Front of the House at Waterleaf

Culinary and Hospitality Management Instructor James Mulyk guides students in the art of creating an excellent guest experience during an International Cuisine dinner at Waterleaf.

"Waterleaf and the Inn at Water's Edge were designed to exacting educational specifications determined by the College's capable and accomplished faculty," said Associate Dean of Business Kris Fay. "These facilities were built not only to align completely with the culinary and hospitality curricula, but also to provide a real-world learning environment with real guests and real facilities."

Fay said that the facilities offer much more flexibility and provide nearly double the capacity for the growing culinary and hospitality programs. She said that while the Inn is operated primarily by COD students and faculty, Waterleaf employs a staff to fill the gaps when the students aren't using the space.

"This allows our guests to enjoy a consistent experience at Waterleaf and helps bring people to the campus who might not otherwise have the opportunity to visit," said Fay.

Table Service

Guests can enjoy the creations of students in the International Cuisine and Classical Cuisine classes on select Mondays and Tuesdays.

Waterleaf provides students an extraordinary opportunity to get experience working in an award-winning fine-dining environment that adheres to only the highest standards. Students in the International Cuisine and Classical Cuisine courses are handed the keys to Waterleaf's kitchen for two nights a week to serve customers, gain crucial hands-on experience and hone the skills they've developed in the classroom.

"It's real service in a real, professional kitchen with very high standards," said culinary student Setrini Sison. "You learn about the prep-work involved in a restaurant kitchen, how to work with others and work more efficiently. It really forces you to be at your best."

In addition to providing a rich learning experience to students, the restaurant also provides COD an opportunity to connect with the community. Last year, 16,000 people visited Waterleaf, many of them visiting campus for the first time.

Inn at Water's Edge

Inn at Water's Edge

The Inn at Water's Edge is a contemporary boutique hotel featuring six fully appointed suites, a breakfast room and a front desk staffed 24 hours a day. It is designed to give guests a memorable stay while providing hospitality students with an unparalleled educational experience.

"Absolutely everything in the Inn at Water's Edge was designed with the question of how each element will benefit the students," said Hospitality Program Coordinator Mary Beth Leone. "From commercial laundry facilities to industry standard property management software, the Inn mirrors precisely what students will find in real world hospitality environments."

Naperville resident Mikala Dougherty is enrolled in the 3+1 Hospitality program with Roosevelt University and will complete her Associate in Applied Science in Hospitality Management at COD this May. Currently employed as a student worker at the Inn's front desk, she said that the opportunity to work at the Inn at Water's Edge has not only provided her with unbeatable experience with which to enter the workforce, it has also transformed her professional goals.

"Working at the Inn helped me get over any apprehension I had about interacting with guests and made me realize that I have a real passion for helping people and making their stay enjoyable and memorable," Dougherty said. "I've found that I love the personal interaction that you get in a boutique hotel and because of this incredible experience at COD, I now hope to eventually operate my own boutique hotel."

Inn Front Desk

From both behind the scenes in housekeeping to direct interaction with guests at the front desk, students work with accomplished faculty and skilled professionals to gain a wide range of experience in a top-notch, real-world hospitality environment.


Inn at Water's Edge

Need a break? Whether it's a weekend with friends, a special celebration, a romantic getaway or extra space for visiting guests, The Inn at Water's Edge offers various packages to meet your needs. Call (630) 942-6888 or visit

Wheat Café

Located in the CHC, the student-staffed Wheat Café features selections created by students from fresh regional and seasonal ingredients. Wheat Café is open Wednesdays and Fridays for lunch and on Wednesdays for dinner through May 1.

Culinary Market at Wheat Café

The Culinary Market, featuring students' gastronomical creations, is open Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from noon to 2:30 p.m. through April 30.

International Cuisine and Classical Cuisine

Guests can also enjoy the creations of students in the International Cuisine and Classical Cuisine classes on select Mondays and Tuesdays this spring. Reservations for the student dinners are available through or by calling (630) 942-2284.



Contact Information

Direct all comments and questions to the editor at

College of DuPage
425 Fawell Boulevard
Glen Ellyn IL 60137

College of DuPage

425 Fawell Blvd., Glen Ellyn IL, 60137

(630) 942-2800 (Main)

(630) 942-3000 (Student Services)

  2017 College of DuPage