Monday, October 3, 2011
Student-run restaurant open for business at Allen High School
Blù serves as the school's senior-level restaurant and hospitality practicum class.
Seniors in Allen High School's culinary arts program are learning more than how to chop vegetables and bake dessert this year.
Part of AHS' new 90,000-square-foot career and technology center addition, Blù is a student-run, full-service restaurant that is open to the public from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday through Friday.
Under the supervision of instructors, students are responsible for the operation of the restaurant from the front of the house to the back. Not only do they prepare and serve meals, but they are being trained to conduct high-level business operations such as cash management, inventory tracking and bulk food ordering.
"The hospitality industry is the largest provider of jobs for people throughout the world," said Jordan Swim, culinary instructor at Allen High School. "So we're trying to provide the opportunity to tell the students, 'This is not just about cooking. It's a business.'"
The restaurant, which opened Sept. 14, serves as the school's senior-level restaurant and hospitality practicum class. Customers have their choice of soup, two $5 entrees and two desserts, with menu items rotating every week. Almost all of the food -- barring sandwich bread -- is made from scratch by students.
Seventeen-year-old senior Brandi Epperson, who hopes to one day open her own coffee house and bakery, said the restaurant's combination of front-of-house and back-of-house skill development is teaching her a wide variety of skills needed for success in her future business.
"I've learned how to set plates. I've learned how to set the tables; where all the forks and spoons go," she said. "A lot of it is customer service, which is really helpful in the restaurant industry. I haven't gone to the back of the house yet, but I plan on doing that in the second semester."
Student involvement in the restaurant goes back to the conceptualization phase of planning this summer. Sheila Hyde, who teaches the hospitality side of the course, said the students had to plan and budget for everything, down to table placements and uniform ordering.
"The biggest thing that I hope they take away from the program is that everything I'm teaching them in the front is something they can use no matter what position they have," she said. "If they're a doctor, lawyer or project manager, they will use some form of hospitality. You have to be able to communicate with people."
Though the restaurant is open three days a week, students work at the restaurant all five days of the school week, developing new menu items and planning on Monday and Tuesday for how much food will be needed in the following days.
"We experiment a little before we throw anything out," said Alexis Inglehart, a 17-year-old senior who works the line at the restaurant. "[Jordan] is open to our ideas, but he helps us hone everything to make a good dish. Every day before we leave we make sure we have a list to make sure we can do the next lunch day."
In March, four culinary arts seniors won First Place honors at the Texas ProStar culinary competition in Austin. At that time, culinary students honed their craft in a small kitchen space attached to the main campus cafeteria. But Swim said the new restaurant adds a new dimension to senior-level culinary education.
"By the end of the year, they'll do all jobs in the restaurant," he said. "They'll have experience in both sides; the frustrations, the joys of both."
Blù is located near the front entrance to the career and technology center at Allen High School.
"What we're teaching here is business," Swim said. "We're teaching students how to go out in the real world to create something, to start with nothing and create a real, live, breathing thing, and Blù just happens to be that."
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