Many culinary schools already run restaurants staffed by their students, but SAIT Polytechnic in Calgary has taken it further with the Market Place at SAIT, a gourmet food store that features the talents of students from the baking and pastry arts, professional cooking, and meat operation and management programs.

SAIT’s meat counter has always been open to the public, but in a cold, industrial setting. The Market Place is set up much more like a retail outlet, similar to Sunterra.

I went to check out its grand opening today and my mouth was watering. Artisan breads, sweet pastries, beautiful cuts of meat, and delicious homemade soups lined the shelves and coolers. There will also be to-go main courses.

Right now, I’m scarfing back a sublime “borscht” with thick chunks of beets and pork. I also brought home some Scotch broth for an ailing Jason, and some chocolate croissants ($1.50 each) for my colleagues.

Prices seemed pretty competitive against local grocery stores and delis. I saw prime rib steak at $15.99/kg, packages of four or five chorizo sausages for about $4, and a great-looking truffle cake for only $10. The soup was totally a steal at $4 for a 750 mL container.

SAIT says the Market Place is a classroom for students to learn how to interact with customers — to explain how to cook certain cuts of meat, to show off their creations, and to get feedback from the public.

Market Place at SAIT, main Calgary campus, 1301-16th Ave NW, John Ware building. Open Monday to Thursday 10:30 a.m.-6:30 p.m. and Friday 10:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m.