Bevier Cafe gives students hands-on experience

By Sarah O'Beirne, Staff Writer

Students are gaining hands-on restaurant experience through FSHN 340: Food Production and Service.

This is being done through Bevier Cafe: a student-run restaurant. It is open Monday-Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. in Bevier Hall.

The course runs from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and students are trained in all aspects of running the business. Students cycle through rotations throughout the semester including hot foods, pantry, bakery, student manager and scullery.

Jorden Brotherton, clinical assistant professor in the College of ACES, oversees the cafe. He said that this course experience allows students to become comfortable in a professional kitchen environment.

“For dietetics students, their end goal is to be in a position to provide dietary advice to students, athletes, children and people in hospitals,” Brotherton said. “Having been in an environment like this in a commercial-size kitchen gives them the know-how, vocabulary and confidence to approach a kitchen and talk with the culinary team.

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Maggie Didier, a senior in ACES, took this course last fall and is now a TA. Didier said this course provides real-life kitchen experience that makes them marketable to future employers.

“Your employer can tell that you have experience,” Didier said. “I’ve learned to respect every position when you go through it and respect for the industry as a whole.”

Part of the course requires students to create their own recipe and figure out the cost of producing it in mass quantities. The dish is then tested on the menu and customers are surveyed on their thoughts.

“Students’ biggest takeaway is recipe standardization,” Brotherton said. “What we teach our students to do is to take one of those recipes, bring it in, test it repeatedly and standardize it to the equipment that we have in our kitchen and make sure its replicable 100 percent of the time.

Julio Zacarias, a junior in ACES, made a handmade pulled chicken with blue cheese and caramelized onions with handmade quesadillas for his classroom recipe.

“It took me about 40 hours of prep time,” Zacarias said. “We had to hand-make every tortilla. I regretted it halfway through. But we sold out of it that day.”

If the dish does well, it has the chance to be added to the menu full-time.

“Quite a few of our menu items are former student test recipes,” Brotherton said. “If they go really well, we’ll actually latch on to that recipe and switch it out with one on the menu that maybe isn’t selling as well.”

If this happens, it’s equivalent to a piece of their work on display for a while, he explained. Everything on the menu is sold for $6.50 or less. Brotherton said the low price is used to lure people in.

“People rave about the quality of the food that we serve which I would argue is far higher than a lot of other restaurants within a few blocks of here,” Brotherton said. “We do that on purpose. We put out a very high-quality product at a lower cost to make sure we get a large number of people coming through the door to support the class.”

The most popular item in the cafe is the famous chocolate chip cookies. Zacarias said that they sell between 100 to 150 cookies every day.

“There are never any left when I try to buy one after class,” Zacarias said.

Bevier Cafe is registered as a non-profit, with the goal to break even every year.

“We were just over that break-even point last year,” Brotherton said. “When we find ourselves with a few thousand in profit, we will roll that back into the program.”

Brotherton said students leave the class with the knowledge and experience of running a restaurant.

“It’s not enough anymore just to have a degree (and) to walk out and interview for a job,” Brotherton said. “We are providing real life hands-on experience within the compounds of a classroom where it’s okay to make mistakes.”

Didier said that she encourages more students to come check out the cafe.

“It’s the most affordable food that is located right on campus. Also, you’re helping students learn more about the industry itself,” Didier said. “It’s a little café that no one really knows about, and we’re trying to make it known. Great little place on campus and my home away from home.”

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