Culinary Students and Cafeteria Should Form Closer Partnership

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Four years ago, the Eagle’s Nest Cafe, a student business operating out of the Culinary Arts room, offered fresh, homemade cooking as a lunch option for students. It served up a menu including personal-sized whole wheat pizzas for $2, beef pot pies for $3 and a variety of hot soups for $2.

Sound too good to be true? A popular lunch option which served about 50 kids a day and earned $100 daily for new culinary ingredients, the Eagle’s Nest Cafe closed at the end of the 2006-2007 school year because it conflicted with the district wellness policy, which, in accordance with the National School Lunch or Breakfast Program, states that, “Any food sales conducted outside the district’s food service program … shall not reduce student participation in the district’s food service program.”

However, instead of competing with one another, the Culinary Arts program and the cafeteria should form a closer partnership, which would not only serve as a valuable learning experience, but could potentially result in better sales and fresher food.

The school has already begun providing an opportunity for such a partnership. Three weeks prior to winter recess, culinary students started preparing food for the cafeteria, preparing “one of the specials and a dessert” every Thursday, Culinary Arts teacher Patty Fambrini said.

Fambrini believes that the arrangement is a “great give-and-take learning experience.” The cafeteria provides ingredients to the students, who then prepare food relating to the course they are learning in class.

Having culinary students directly involved in the process of producing food gives them hands-on experience in the business side of food production. It is important for the district to continue providing opportunities for students to be a part of the cafeteria program and expand their experiences in the kitchen. Fambrini hopes students can prepare meals two to three times a week in the future.

Culinary Arts students should be commended for their work in food preparation so far. Many students have noticed the quality and variety of food increase in recent weeks.

“The food in the cafeteria has definitely gotten better,” senior Julie Zhu said. “There’s more selection.”

Not only will the partnership offer an invaluable experience to culinary students, it could improve cafeteria food sales by incorporating student feedback into the menu. By allowing students to be actively involved in food selections, the cafeteria could cater more directly to what students are willing to buy and would enjoy eating.

Individual efforts to improve the cafeteria with artwork and renovations have made the cafeteria a more pleasant place to enjoy lunch. More student involvement in food preparation and options could elevate the cafeteria to the next level, transforming it into the new and improved Eagle’s Nest Cafe.