Students gather near the planetarium, drawn by the aroma of spices that fill the hallways. The chefs are working diligently, taking orders and plating food. It’s buffet sale day at RBHS.
Since the late ’90s, the Columbia Area Career Center (CACC) has done meal sales with Culinary 2 classes, serving the students and faculty of RBHS, culinary instructor Brook Harlan said. Recently, however, the CACC stopped offering these meals.
Chef Harlan said that across Columbia Public Schools (CPS), courses should do the same thing in each class. For example, at Battle High School, (BHS) there are fewer students signed up for the course. Organizing, serving and preparing enough food for the entire school body may be a little too demanding when there aren’t as many individuals to help out. Despite the change, Chef Harlan said the modification has not negatively impacted the program.
“We’re really not collecting less revenue it’s just that we’re not doing [the meal sales],” Chef Harlan said. “Those actually weren’t very big money makers. A lot of times with that we would do better than breaking even, but the biggest thing was to promote awareness for the sale, so I think it was a very good experience for the students.”
Senior Avery Brooks is among the students who has received a unique experience from the meal sales. For Brooks, the buffets allowed students to be exposed to what a dinner service might be like at a real restaurant, and what it was like to have a rush.
Like Brooks, junior Natalie Mobley is a student in the culinary program, and while the buffets are no longer a thing, she is able to participate in activities through similar events.
“Even though we aren’t doing the buffets, we still do sales,” Mobley said. “The general public can still order the same foods that we used to have at the buffets. They are just sold individually as opposed to as a part of a meal.”
Chef Harlan said that for a variety of reasons, such as the recent snow days, the program is in an unusual time with trying new things. Even so, enough revenue is being made to keep the class running.
“We do have a really good budget from the district, but with that we’re only able to get partially through the year,” Chef Harlan said. “Right now I think we’re still on our instructional budget and definitely some time during the semester we will switch over to our ECA [Educational and Cultural Affairs] account to start paying for stuff here.”
Despite the cut of the buffets, Brooks is thankful for the culinary classes offered at the CACC, as he believes the course translates really well to the real world. Brooks works at the Broadway Brewery and sees that experience in the kitchen at school has taught him about work ethic.
“[The class] definitely helped me prepare for wanting to work just knowing that I have to show up and do stuff,” Brooks said. “It’s not going to translate entirely, it’s not going to prepare you for all you need, but it definitely gives you skills to be successful and puts you ahead of somebody who has no experience whatsoever.”
What was your favorite meal that the culinary program offered? Thanksgiving? Mardi Gras? Let us know in the comments below.