KayLynn Crissman – a senior Lenape Tech culinary arts student – navigates her way past another server and through a busy cafe yesterday afternoon when students opened up the restaurant for residents to sample new recipes that will be on the menu in the coming weeks.
by Jonathan Weaver
A month into the school year and Lenape Tech culinary students already impress their teachers and hungry locals.
Thursday, the combined-32 student chefs prepared and served up their first plates in the student-run-café – a dozen experimental items during a taste-testing of possible new menu treats.
Junior Hunter Hutchinson of West Shamokin explained students sat in the dining room a few weeks ago and brainstormed new ideas for the restaurant menu. An hour into Thursday’s taste-testing, he was already preparing two dozen more potato skins.
“This is a taste-testing to see if people like them or not – and so far, it’s going really good,” Hutchinson said.
Senior KayLynn Crissman of Kittanning quickly shuffled through the restaurant asking for drink orders. She said she liked the role because she has the personality for it.
Senior Heather Shaffor of Apollo-Ridge prepares vegetable wraps in the kitchen while diners enjoy the new addition. Shaffor has been a culinary arts student for three years – including one year as a part-time student.
In the first hour, she served about 18 guests.
“Everybody loves the food,” Crissman said.
Before the end of the two-hour service, Crissman and other servers nearly tripled that with 52 total tickets. Customers included Lenape Tech faculty and administration, Pennsylvania State Police troopers and parents and residents of the community.
Cosmetology Instructor Gara Atherton is a frequent guest during the school year.
“All the time. Every week – because it’s so good,” Atherton said. “I actually get my dinner to take home every Wednesday and Thursday.”
Atherton said she fairly critiques recipes for students and Culinary Instructor Andrea Fahlor.
While State Police troopers joked with each other about being able to go back for seconds, Senior Heather Shaffor of Apollo-Ridge was preparing extra vegetable wraps. She enjoyed the hectic restaurant pace.
“I like it because it gives me more of a rush – if you’re rushing, you’re able to work at a faster pace rather than if you’re not as busy and know what to do,” Shaffor said. “Then when you get slammed, you really know what to do.”
Shaffor said she is crazy-busy at her job often – at McDonalds in Leechburg – but the communication skills she learned at the student restaurant helps her endure the hectic atmosphere.
Junior Chris Schreckengost of Ford City said that communication was easy since the start of school.
“The first week we got here, we all got along pretty (well),” Schreckengost said.
Madeline Skrowls of Dayton and Rural Valley friends Janet Bosco and Martha Claypool were some of the first diners for lunch Thursday. Skrowls found out about the taste testing from her husband, Bob – who is a bus driver for Lenape Tech.
“Everything was really good, but the salmon was great,” Skrowls said. “And the salad with that bacon dressing was really good. I want the recipe.
“We’ll be back.”
Before the school bell rang, Fahlor complimented her students on their effort – including with crowd-favorite Super-food grain quinoa (pronounced keen-wa).
“Today went very well for our first day – the students worked extremely hard to prepare the items and get it out on time. Everything we put out today were all new menu items so they never made them before, other than practicing to come up with the recipes,” Fahlor said.
“We were very, very busy – at one point, it was standing room-only, and we even had some guests sit outside at the picnic tables.”
Nearly 20 students prepared the food and worked in the restaurant, while about a dozen morning students spent their first day in the kitchen prepping for the juniors and seniors.
Items that were on the menu Thursday will be introduced into the usual menu slowly, with items being added weekly.
Proceeds made from the taste-testing will be used to purchase ingredients to keep the business going. Culinary students have a friendly competition with the cosmetology clinic down the hall to have the highest revenue at the end of the school year.
The restaurant, usually open Wednesdays and Thursdays during the school year, opens next week to the public.