On Thursday Patrick Henry Community College held the grand opening of the new Culinary Café - an operation that is entirely managed and run by PHCC’s culinary students under the direction of Culinary Instructor Bob Koester. The café is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Thursday and from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Fridays.
The primary function of the Culinary Café is to give culinary students real-world experience and to help launch their careers. It also provides students, employees, and community members a convenient place to eat.
Approximately 25 students work in the fast-paced, multi-stationed café each week either as part of their class time or lab hours. The college has also hired six part-time and work study students to run the café outside of class.
The staple café menu consists of burgers, wraps, sandwiches, and salads. In order to master new techniques, the students prepare specials each week like chicken parmesan, pepper steak, and chicken pot pie. “The weekly specials are widely varied so students can learn and perfect new skills and work with new ingredients,” says Koester. “I coordinate them with our curriculum and expose students to new material. Plus, customers love it.”
Last year, culinary students catered an unprecedented number of events – sometimes catering more than once a week on top of class time. Some events served over 200 people. Recognizing that his students’ cooking was in high-demand, Chef Bob knew he had the customer support to take the program one step further and to give his students a taste of running a daily operation. This fall, the culinary students will still be catering on-campus events as they also learn to manage and run their own café.