Culinary students in Waco are back to hands-on learning in their student-run restaurant open to the public
WACO, Texas (KWTX) - Texas State Technical College culinary arts students return back to hands-on, real-life learning experience as their student-run restaurant reopens for the first time since the onset of the pandemic.
“I’m extremely excited because this has been what I’ve been waiting for,” Samuel Mitchell, fifth-year TSTC student, said.
Mitchell said he has been holding back on graduation in order to take this course. In the meantime, he started working at Pivovar in Waco to gain some experience, but he said the restaurant course extends beyond culinary techniques.
“It really teaches you leadership in the restaurant and actually prepares you to work on a line and how a line works,” he said. “But, it really prepares you for a leadership position or management position in the kitchen, because that’s what we’re trying to make here, is executive chefs.”
He said a head chef, Chef Justin Turner, teaches students how to work side-by-side with other chefs in a commercial kitchen, how to plate meals properly on a dish and how to prepare and cook gourmet meals.
“It switches from week-to-week on who does entrée, who does salad, who does soup, and who does pastry and baking,” Mitchell said.
While students are preparing those gourmet meals, another group of students are working face-to-face with customers.
“I am in the dining room, and I will be serving guests, delivering their meals, refilling their drinks, and taking their order,” Isaiah Carter, a TSTC culinary student, said. “You’re not just interacting with your classmates now, it’s other guests and adults, so being more respectful, having better etiquette, and treating your guests with respect that they deserve.”
Carter said they try to create what may feel like a five-star-dining experience for customers.
“I think coming here would be a great experience to show that, ‘Hey, this is the next generation of servers that could be serving us at high-end restaurants in the next few years,’” Carter said. “If you talk to any of our other guests, our regulars is what we call them, they say the food is great, and the service is outstanding.”
However, because it is a college course, what you may not see if you dine there is the grading process.
“We’re graded on how well we do service...Is our uniform neat? Has it been washed or pressed?” Carter said. “We are also graded on how we talk to our customers. Chef is watching us and how we treat our guests and customers. Also, are we doing our task, our jobs?...All of that accumulates together as well as the customer’s response to our job.”
While it is a little stressful, the students who are taking the course said they enjoy the hands-on opportunity to learn and get a sneak peak of their futures.
“I really want to open my own meat market up,” Mitchell said. “I come from West, and me and my dad have always wanted to open up a meat market.”
“My plans are to have a restaurant within the next five years, as well as a couple more food trailers across the Texas,” Carter, whose family owns and operates Rooster’s BBQ Texas, said.
The restaurant is open to the campus and the public Wednesday’s and Friday’s from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Reservations are required via email: firstname.lastname@example.org. They ask that you do not make same-day reservations so that students know how much to prepare.
The restaurant changes themes every week, and this week---October 5 and 7---they are preparing Italian courses. The following are the expected themes for the following weeks.
- Italian on Oct. 5 and Oct. 7
- Mexican on Oct. 12 and Oct. 14
- German on Oct. 19 and Oct. 21
- Greek on Oct. 26 and Oct. 28
- Thai on Nov. 2 and Nov. 4
The following weeks they will be open but do not have a planned menu yet.
- Nov. 9 and Nov. 11
- Nov. 16 and Nov. 18
- Nov. 30 and Dec. 2.
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