Restaurant Management turns up the heat with Mexican-themed restaurant

Senior Kristain Ancheta whisks the horchata before it’s served at the Mexican-themed Restaurant Management luncheon hosted in the Community Room on October 24th. “This morning this [horchata] was just a block. My classmates really helped out to pull everything together,” Ancheta said. Photo by Allison McDowell.

Teachers and families joined East’s Restaurant Management class on Thursday, October 24th, during lunch hours to enjoy the class’ hard work. Music and table chatter filled the room as the class hosted a Mexican themed restaurant titled “Bueno Bonito y Barato,” or “Good, Pretty, and Cheap.” Six themed tables were set up and decorated for the event in the community room, while in A221 the cooking and preparing took place. 

From the menu to table decor and music, all aspects related to the restaurant’s theme, selected by two seniors in the class, Julissa Pinedo and Kristain Ancheta. Meanwhile, the rest of the class cooked, waited tables, washed dishes, and prepared meals for the restaurant. 

“I picked the theme because I thought it would be really fun and a way to connect with my heritage,” Pinedo said. “I am Mexican and it is what I am best at, but also because it would help [diversify] the kitchen.” 

Pinedo added that most of the recipes used for the restaurant were her grandmother’s, which connected her further with her heritage. 

The lunch menu consisted of an appetizer, a main course with a vegetarian option, dessert, and themed drink. For starters, the tables were set with a pitcher of horchata and guests were served elotes, guacamole, and chips. Next, their main course arrived, consisting of either steak or vegetarian tacos with Mexican rice and beans. To end the meal, guests had churros with chocolate ganache and caramel sauce. 

The class had been preparing for the restaurant the entire week prior. Meals were cooked in the days before so that they were ready to be served during lunch the day of the restaurant. Since restaurant management is a blocked class, this gave students plenty of time to cook and prepare. 

Ancheta said that preparation has taken a lot of hard work and patience, but overall it was a great experience for him. 

Restaurant management teacher Suzanne Van der Merwe has been teaching at East for four years now. Prior to working at East, she taught culinary arts in Cape Town, South Africa. She said that she has always been a culinary arts teacher and she really loves her job. 

“On Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, we did the prep during class. Some students came in during their lunch to help and start heating up some of the food before the restaurant,” Van der Merwe said. “All the food was ready to be served by the end of the day on Wednesday.” 

According to Junior Restaurant Management student Nicole Gersch these couple of days tended to be a very stressful time. She said the kitchen can get very loud, especially if things go wrong. 

“It’s an emotional time because some stuff doesn’t come out right and then we have to perfect it. It’s a lot of stress,” Pinedo said. 

Every student in the class is responsible for different aspects of the restaurant. Just like in other classes, students have to follow specific instruction or all of their work could be ruined. Junior Roberto Bonilla explained the way every student has to work together in the restaurant setting so that everything works out. 

“It is just important to make sure that we follow the recipe that we are given and to always ask questions if something seems a little off,” Bonilla said. “We need to make sure everything is right so that it doesn’t come out messed up. You just have to pay attention to what you are doing and make sure that you are doing everything right, not cutting corners.” 

“We need to make sure everything is right so that it doesn’t come out messed up. You just have to pay attention to what you are doing and make sure you are doing everything right, not cutting corners.”

— junior Roberto Bonilla

When customers arrived on Thursday they were greeted at the door and lead to a table, soon to be served by a waiter or waitress. Families of the students and teachers at East attended the restaurant to see and admire their students work. Sister of student Briana Rodriguez, Shay Rodriguez, admired what her sister and her classmates accomplished.

“I have worked in restaurants before but I have never worked in the kitchen. I have, however, seen it and I know just the amount that teamwork that goes into it and the amount you have to rely on other people and trust people to get everything done,” Rodriguez said. 

Physical Education Department Chair Laura Nussle explained her experience at the event and said she attends the restaurants regularly.

“I love coming here every time the class hosts one, I’ve been doing it for years now because I think it’s great that the kids get to actually apply what they are learning and get that experience of what a restaurant is,” Nussle said. “I think it’s great to see the kids’ talents in different ways. It gives me a chance to stop what I’m doing and take a time out.” 

Throughout the restaurant, students joined their families, receiving compliments and hugs. Briana Rodriguez’s mother Tracie Rodriguez attended and gave feedback to the kitchen. She is a regular at these events ever since her daughter joined the class. 

“I think it’s a good experience for the kids to just get more experience about how a restaurant works,” Rodriguez said. “The food has always been really good, which is surprising. I’m really proud of them.”

Staff that attended the event said they noticed the way students interacted with their families. Special Education Secretary Alisa Rannochio said the event was a nice break from her day at work. 

“It’s fun to see when their families come and support them, too. It’s a lot of fun that the kids are so happy that they are there,” Rannochio said. 

After 6th hour on Thursday, the restaurant was over. With this, the kitchen noise decreased and student Pinedo thanked and complimented her coworkers on all of their hard work. Van der Merwe said her students really benefit from these restaurants as they introduce them to the real world. 

“Students learn time management and they learn how to work under pressure,” Van der Merwe said. “Students learn to work with and communicate with each other. Communication is key in the restaurant business.”

In general, Restaurant Management hosts two restaurants a month. The next restaurant will be on November 7th and will serve soul food.

Allison McDowell is a Co-News Editor for Oswego East High School’s online news magazine the Howl

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