Culinary class pays special thanks to town workers

By Kevin Hotary - Staff Writer
Colchester - posted Mon., Oct. 3, 2011
Josh Healy (left) and Andrew Draper prepare take-out entrees at the Bacon Academy Cafe. Photos by Kevin Hotary.
Josh Healy (left) and Andrew Draper prepare take-out entrees at the Bacon Academy Cafe. Photos by Kevin Hotary.

Bacon Academy Family and Consumer Science teacher Donna Kaik and her culinary students prepared a special “thank you” for town workers last week for all of their clean-up efforts in the wake of tropical storm Irene; a thank you that included Italian wedding soup, antipasto salad and eggplant rollatini, topped off with cannoli for dessert.

The menu was chosen, prepared and served by students in Kaik’s culinary class, which, as far as she knows, is unique in the state outside of vocational schools, with students operating a licensed restaurant within the school.

“We follow all of the same rules that restaurants follow,” said Kaik. She and her students develop a menu for the week, which can include anything that the kitchen has the equipment to prepare, said Kaik. The menu is sent out to a long list of patrons, who reserve their spot for the Wednesday afternoon meal that is prepared and served by the students. The students rotate through the various restaurant jobs, from preparing the entrée to washing dishes, from week to week.

According to Kaik, in a typical week, 100 to 120 people - including a number of carry-out orders - take advantage of the high-quality, low-cost meals prepared by the students. While students are not allowed to eat at the Bacon Café, a number of teachers come nearly every week.

“Thank you, everyone. It was delicious. I really enjoyed it!” said Maurice Hebb, one of the frequent teacher patrons to the café. While he enjoys the food, Hebb said that he also appreciates all of the life-skills that students learn through the class – such as interacting with a variety of people and quickly performing multiple tasks - that extend beyond restaurant work.

“They learn things that they can use the rest of their lives,” said Kaik.

“It’s a great way to interact with students in a more professional atmosphere,” said Joseph Hage, another Bacon teacher who comes nearly every week with fellow teachers Charles Hewes and John Paul Williamson.

“It’s quite an experience for the students. It’s really authentic for them,” said Hewes, adding, “and I love the bread!”

The student experience at the Bacon Café is fast-paced, maybe even faster than would be expected at the usual restaurant, given the class time constraints. But everything proceeded smoothly, and the students seemed to enjoy even the most menial of kitchen tasks.
Showing the wrinkles on his hands, earned as the dishwasher for the day, Jacob Gagnon said, “It’s pretty sweet, I like it,” about the restaurant class. “You really don’t know how intense it is until you do it,” he added.

Shawn Knowles, a 2010 graduate of Bacon Academy, comes to the café every week, he said, after taking the class for three years. “I enjoyed working here, and now being on the receiving end,” he said.

Lynn Vincelette was at the café with a couple of coworkers from S & S Worldwide, one of several groups picking up a carry-out order.

“We can’t wait for Friday when they send the new menu out,” said Vincelette. Every week, she said, they pick up an order for about 10 people. “We couldn’t wait for school to start. We really missed it over the summer,” she said.

But this day was about the town workers, who received the full five-star treatment at no cost. In the brief period (about one and a half hours) during which the café is open, about a dozen workers came in to enjoy their Italian-themed lunch.

“It’s awesome,” said Jessie, one of the workers. “It’s very nice of them. They didn’t have to do it, we were just doing our job,” she said.

As head chef, Kaik directs the students through the beehive of activity, making sure that tables are waited on promptly and that to-go orders are ready on time, which they almost always are. “They work very hard.  I’m very proud of what these kids do,” said Kaik.

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