by Laura Bednar
The Valley Inn, a student-operated restaurant at Cuyahoga Valley Career Center, has returned to in-person dining following a closure due to the pandemic.
Seniors in the CVCC culinary arts program run the restaurant, preparing the food, serving it and greeting customers.
“They ultimately learn customer service,” said Kim Morton, culinary arts instructor at CVCC.
The culinary arts program is open to juniors and seniors. Juniors learn the basics in preparing sauces, knife skills, hospitality arts and operating commercial kitchen equipment. By senior year, much of the course is hands-on, according to Morton. The program includes ServSafe safety training, which is administered by the National Restaurant Association.
Culinary arts students also have the opportunity to take the Food Protection Manager Certification test, which examines a chef’s knowledge of food safety in a commercial food service environment.
“Most chefs in the industry struggle with that certification,” said Morton. “We encourage students to take the test if they are looking for jobs [right after high school].”
There are 14 seniors and 15 juniors in the program this year. Seniors run the restaurant, but the juniors were able to participate during COVID, when the restaurant was carryout only for staff members.
The carryout option will be implemented again this year and be open to the public, according to Morton. She said last year, in addition to operating the restaurant, seniors ran catering events at the CVCC catering space, which accommodates up to 100 people.
“Catering a luncheon for 50 and running the restaurant at the same time, those are the days the kids get real experience in the industry,” said Morton.
The menu was modified during the pandemic but is returning with several options this year. It includes salads, sandwiches, entrées and desserts. Morton said some popular choices are the valiant burger with onion jam and a tomato basil mozzarella Panini with the option of adding a protein, like turkey.
The all-inclusive entrée meals begin with soup or salad, a choice of chicken, seafood, beef or pork and end with a small dessert.
Morton said students might add menu items after existing items are established. “They will have opportunities for development,” she said, adding that new dishes must be suggested in recipe format, so other chefs can easily replicate them.
“I hope it [the restaurant] is busy to prepare them for real life situations,” said Morton. “It’s about the kids having the best experience at their level to continue their education at a culinary institute or go out into the field.” Valley Inn is open Tuesday through Thursday from 11:30 a.m.- 1p.m.