It's the attention to detail that's most noticeable: the single rosebud in
a delicate vase, the black and white linens against the sharply contrasted
royal blue tablecloth, the napkin intricately designed as a folder to hold
the utensils and - perhaps most apparent - the striking combination of
aromas filling the air.
They're all signs that the Chief Leschi School's Dine and Dash Eatery in
Puyallup, Wash. was about to open and provide a unique eating experience.
At 8:30 a.m. students in Jan Larsen's culinary arts class are busy
preparing garnishes, pre-cooking food and making salads for the staff
fortunate enough to secure one of the 16 seats. Jack Johnston is patient as
he makes another tomato rose garnish.
"It's somewhat tricky. They have to be the right thickness or they don't
look good," said the senior, who's in his second year of culinary arts. "I
didn't know I liked to cook until I took this class," added Johnston.
Nina Sanchez is especially proud of her Shimmering Delight dessert. "Each
gelatin layer took 45 minutes to set and was tilted to give it a special
effect," said the Chief Leschi senior. Sanchez was one of a dozen students
who visited the Spaghetti Factory, where they learned different service
techniques and restaurant setup. "The most important thing they taught us
was about teamwork," Sanchez said. "If one person is missing or isn't
working as a team, then it can impact everyone."
Larsen checks on her students' creations and makes sure they keep track of
the time. She visits each of the four fully equipped kitchen stations where
students put final touches on a Waldorf salad, chicken parmigiana and
specialty soups. "The students surveyed the staff, designed the menu,
tested and adjusted their recipes and then priced out the menu," said
Larsen, who's been in the kitchen with students since the program began
five years ago. "Students work very hard and put in time outside of class
to get their product just right. They have fun and end up with a sense of
accomplishment. It's a joy to work with their eagerness and enthusiasm."
Guests are greeted and shown to their seats as they arrive. Teacher Will
Fry's order included steak, vegetable soup and dessert. "The chocolate
mousse torte was so well decorated that it looked like a work of art," said
Fry, who grew up in the food service industry. "I know how hard it is to do
what those kids did and I really applaud their efforts. If you know how to
do a job in the food service business, you will always have a job.
Restaurants always need help," Fry said.
Culinary arts students can earn high school as well as college credit
through a partnership with Bates Technical College. If they show
proficiency in selected areas, they are able to get a head start on a
culinary arts degree and often get jobs above entry level. That idea
appeals to senior Shamira McIntyre: she's considering going into food or
fashion design. "Both fields are creative," said McIntyre. "This is my
favorite class. It's a fun experience to learn different things."
Special Services assistant Charlene Kai looks forward to coming to the Dine
and Dash Eatery each year. "It's a great experience for the students to be
on the other side of the table. They get a better idea of what service is
and the hard work that goes on in a restaurant. You can see their manners
improve instantly," Kai said.
Johnson continues his garnishes as guests are served. "I like how this
class is hands-on," Johnston said. "We have a lot of freedom to choose our
"The payoff is the eating part. That's what I like."