Plants, food and dance!

Featured: Plants, food and dance!

Plants, food and dance!

Shirese Hursey, our day trip photographer, and I were looking for a good day trip, and it hit us: there are some really wonderful places right here at the University of Illinois.

Story: Bridget Broihahn

Photos: Shirese Hursey and Krannert Center for the Performing Arts

Shirese Hursey, our day trip photographer, and I were looking for a good day trip, and it hit us: there are some really wonderful places right here at the University of Illinois. So, we parked and walked. To be honest we didn’t even walk that far, either.

The first place we visited was the UI Plant Biology Greenhouse located at 1201 S. Dorner Drive, Urbana. It’s free to visit, but donations are most welcomed and highly encouraged. Open hours are from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. The day we visited was very gray day in early spring, so this was just what we needed to perk up a little. We visited the conservatory, home to 208 plant species and 69 plant families. Truly, there are over 1,000 plants in that beautiful place. Most of the plants represent a tropical rainforest, so it really brightened us up. The conservatory is 2,000-square-feet of beauty, and reaches heights of 37 feet. There are also plant collection rooms that display plants from different environments. We met with Deb Black, the greenhouse manager plant biology, in the school of integrative biology.

Some of these species are almost one-hundred-years-old, according to Black. They are part of a collection that was gathered by Dr. Charles Chamberlain in the early 1900s from around the world. The UI obtained the collection in 1920, so the university will have owned these for a century very, very soon. For more information, go to

We could’ve stayed there all day, but I am glad we didn’t, because next we were off to Bevier Café, a student operated restaurant open for breakfast, lunch and afternoon snacks, located at 905 S. Goodwin Ave., Urbana. Since it was Friday and we wore our UI orange and blue we received 10 percent off of our bill! Our lunches were excellent, too. I had balsamic chicken-a tender chicken breast marinated in a rosemary vinaigrette and served over parmesan polenta. Shirese had the creamy tomato soup and grilled cheese. We also had freshly baked cookies and with beverages we had a combined bill of under $20.

Jordan Brotherton, the clinical assistant professor and an alumnus of the Bevier Café program which falls under the food science and human nutrition department in the college of agriculture, consumer and environmental sciences.

“The café is totally staffed and run by our students. It’s and applicable real world experience. Everything is made from scratch. It’s also a not-for-profit, which means we put all proceeds back into the program,” Brotherton said.

Hospitality management majors have a unique opportunity with the college of business where a business minor can easily be achieved by just completing their course work for this concentration. “They’re actually just one course away from a business minor in this concentration,” Brotherton said.

The crew was also preparing for the Spice Box, a fine dining experience that is the pinnacle of a senior’s course study. In this course, each senior is responsible for planning, staffing, executing and evaluating a financially viable themed fine dining meal. A southern-style meal was in the works when we visited.

We also took in the brainchild of Carter Phillips, another alumnus of the program that has returned as the quantity food manager. “Yes, that brainchild is this Carter’s,” Brotherton said as he pointed to the in-house herb garden.

“We want to use local sources for our products, and this makes it easily acquired, too,” Phillips said.

What is better than healthy and delicious food that also helps a student hone their craft of becoming a chef, a restaurateur or hospitality director. It doesn’t get better than that! Go to or for more information.

We ended our day with an evening at Krannert Center for the Performing Arts. We saw the Dublin Irish Dance: Stepping Out. This troupe of world-champion Irish step dancers was joined by an eight-member Irish band and vocalists to give us a thrill with jigs, reels, tap and soft shoe numbers. And it was good for all ages.

This two-hour show was so fun! We had a lovely wine varietal-Riesling-at intermission with a savory cheese and cracker plate. We enjoyed a lively evening at Krannert. And parking is free! Go to to find out their next great show!