Café 91 Opens for Business
October 02, 2019 - 11:16 AM
Two guests walked in the doors of the newly opened Café 91, in building 78, last week and were ready to try something new. Students Tony and Adrian are training to be chefs, but were operating as waiters this day. One went to greet the guests and another went through the ‘In’ swinging doors to let the three students working the kitchen to be ready for their first order of the day. The guests ordered the Ancient Grain Bowl and Brioche Club Sandwich.
“I think I am most surprised that customers gravitate to healthy dishes like the Ancient Grain Bowl,” said Culinary Arts A.S. student Aimee Wallace. “That salad really captures all the modern restaurant demands: environmental sustainability, cost-efficient, nutritious and highly modifiable to the guests’ taste and diet.”
The Fall menu (https://www.mtsac.edu/cafe91/fall2019-menu.pdf) is an assortment of American items sprinkled with modern world cuisines like Albondigas and Baked Crostini.
Café 91, named after the Culinary 91 class that puts students in the restaurant, is designed as a working classroom. All front-of-house food service, cooking and kitchen duties are all performed by students. The restaurant has been in a trial ‘soft opening’ for the past month and now opens its doors to everyone on October 2, 2019.
“The students have been doing an amazing job and the customers have been really happy,“ said Richard Hanna, the Culinary Arts Professor that runs the Café. “This is the culmination of the entire Culinary Arts program here at Mt. SAC. Each student will not only have the hard skills needed in a kitchen, but the soft skills of dealing directly with customers. This ‘double duty’ is what any executive chef will be doing day in and day out.”
Hanna has two lab techs, Marianne Lima and Alex Carrillo, who oversee the front and back of house, respectively. Hanna was teaching a Butchering class in the back of the kitchen on the day we were there.
The restaurant will evolve over time, but for the opening, all seating will be done by online reservations only (https://www.mtsac.edu/cafe91/) and all payment has to be done by credit card. Guests’ after-meal input and thoughts are considered the tip in this restaurant classroom. The students may not accept any financial gratuity. The restaurant is open Wednesday through Friday, seating from 11 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. The students have to get to their next class, after all.
All of this front-of-house service and direct contact with the guests is proving to be the most eye opening for students like Tony Britton, majoring in Culinary Arts Management A.S.
“I have learned how communicating what the guest wants to the kitchen is critical,” said Tony. “We discovered last week that guests were expecting malt vinegar or tartar sauce with their Fish & Chips. But we serve it with a honey-malt vinaigrette. So, we needed to figure out whether we serve what guests expect or do we do a better job communicating with the guest how that meal will be served.”
Adrian Olivares agrees. “It is one thing to hear in a classroom what guests may want, but there are a lot of nuances and details you can’t understand until you are really waiting on a guest in a full-service restaurant like this.”
At the end of the day, the restaurant is designed to get the students ready to step into a career in a high-end gourmet restaurant kitchen.
“This a whole different experience working the hot line in an actual restaurant,” said student Jenny Yung. “You have to be very organized and operate efficiently, working smoothly with your team. It’s all about building that family that makes a great restaurant.”
See and read more at: https://www.mtsac.edu/newsroom/news/posts/cafe91_photo_sneakpeek.html