The sound of pans clattering, liquid hitting a hot pan and loud voices echoing off the tiled floor sounds like an episode of “Top Chef.” The menu, too, with risotto, orange glazed pork chops and french onion soup, is high class. But that is typical of what students see and hear as they pass by the Pendulum Court Cafe in the Eyring Science Center as students prepare for the reopening today.
The Pendulum Court Cafe is run by dietetics students taking the food production management lab course required by their major. The course gives students the opportunity for hands-on experience in a real kitchen with time constraints and planning menus.
- Customers wait in line for the reopening of the Eyring Science Center Pendulum Food Court Cafe.
“They are making a hundred or more of something in just a couple of hours; its pretty fast-paced,” said Katie Aston, dietetics intern.
Many of the students have only had fast food restaurant experience.
“In a fast food restaurant you are not worried about how pretty the food is, but here we want our plates to be colorful and we want to have a lot of visual appeal as well as taste appeal,” Aston said.
Presentation is a large part of the higher level culinary skills they learn in the class, like cutting an orange peel and twisting it into a garnish.
Cooking in a real kitchen is exciting for students who have not had previous culinary experience.
“Most of the things we make are things I would never make at home,” said Ashlee Whipple, a junior studying dietetics, from Madisonville, La.
Students learn a variety of skills that will help them as professionals.
“The information we learn is so practical, so useful,” Whipple said. “I am going to use this my whole life and everything that I do for myself, my family, my friends.”
Part of cooking is paying attention to the nutritional value of the foods and meals they make. Students are required to plan out nutritional menus and then customize them for certain diets or lifestyles, Aston said. For instance, students may have to alter a menu to fit a diabetic’s needs.
Whipple said she also appreciates what she has learned about teamwork.
“We’re starting this major not knowing what we are doing … and we work with each other finding out where things are and how to work the machines,” Whipple said.
Teamwork plays into how well students can manage a restaurant. Each student in the class must be manager of the restaurant for a week. They learn how to handle crises so everything will run smoothly, Aston said. That experience will serve them well in their careers, as many dietetics majors go on to manage cafeterias in places like hospitals or open their own catering businesses.
Two times a semester, the cafe does a theme day, where they scrap the whole menu and replace it with a theme. One of themes this semester will be Rock N’ Roll. The menu will feature items like gourmet burgers and tuxedo cheesecake.
A new semester and new students also brings new menu items. The grilled chicken pesto panini, Greek salad and red velvet cupcakes are all new additions. But old favorites like the macadamia nut chicken, Asian lettuce wraps and fruit pizza are all returning.
Kelsey Fearnley, 20, a junior studying social science teaching, from Memphis, Tenn., is a regular customer at the cafe.
“I love eating at the cafe; it’s the best food on campus, ” she said. “You can tell the students work hard to make the food amazing.”
The cafe will be closed from Sept. 26-29 for remodeling, but will be back open the following week with regular hours. It is open Monday through Thursday, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:10 p.m., except on Tuesday when it is open from 12 to 1:10 p.m.