Three days a week, students at Riverview High School get a taste of what it’s like in a real-world kitchen.
During the school year, a student-run restaurant called “The Reef” serves as a laboratory for the high school’s culinary arts students who develop its menu, prepare and serve the food and clean up before and after each day of business.
What’s cool is that the public is invited to stop by for lunch Tuesday through Thursday from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Approximately 200 students are participating this year in the school’s hands-on Culinary Arts Program, which uses ProStart, an industry-driven high school curriculum developed by the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation.
One thing was immediately evident as I looked around the cafe’s dynamic setting — the enthusiasm among students as they performed their real-life restaurant tasks was contagious. All were friendly, polite and prompt.
The students rotate duties, said Jessica Evans, culinary instructor.
Some serve as waiters, some greet customers and others run the cash register and fetch take-out orders.
I happened to be dining on a Thursday when in addition to a regular menu the future chefs had chosen an Asian-themed buffet that included a veggie stir fry, orange beef, Kung Pao chicken, fried rice, egg rolls and deep-fried wontons. My meal and a glass of water was bargain-priced at $8.
Previous buffet specials have included breakfast for lunch, barbecue, and ethnic cuisine like corned beef and cabbage in honor of St. Patrick’s Day.
In addition to the delicious buffet, the kitchen also offered a regular menu complete with a salad bar; entrees like spicy penne Alfredo or bacon cheeseburger chalupa; and dessert, a choice between a gooey cinnamon roll or chocolate chip cookie. I’ll try these next time.
The Reef is one of those dining experiences you’ve got to enjoy at least once if you call yourself a restaurant hound. It’s staffed with earnest students about to embark on restaurant careers and it was a pleasure to support them.
You never know. The student serving you might one day be the owner of your favorite restaurant.
Lynn Kessel is a freelance food columnist. For more of her recipes, visit southshore.tbo.com and enter the search words Lynn Kessel.