The Pendulum Court Cafe had its opening day for the new academic year on Monday Sept. 14. This was the first day the cafe in the Eyring Science Center has been in operation since all campus restaurants were first shut down due to COVID-19 in March.
Nicknamed the PenCourt by the students and staff, the cafe is no ordinary on-campus restaurant. It is a food lab for dietetics students that gives hands-on experience in food safety certification, food preparation, restaurant management and kitchen operation.
Juniors in the dietetics program take this class to get experience in all aspects of dietetics. They spend about 10 hours in the lab every week working for the PenCourt, plus extra outside time on assignments and quizzes.
Despite the stress and the fast-paced learning, the students say they love having the new challenge. “We’re all new to this and learning together as we go,” said Sydney Hollingsworth, a student in the PenCourt lab.
Hannah Erekson, a student who was in the lab in Winter 2020, said, “It’s fun to get out of the classroom and be on our feet moving and applying things we had previously learned in class. It’s not easy work, but it’s rewarding to serve others yummy meals that they love.”
The food lab is an experience that cannot be replicated online, so the class was canceled when campus got shut down mid-winter semester. The professors and interns over the cafe did not know what to expect this semester or whether they would be able to continue operating again.
“We had everything prepared for fall as if it would be a normal semester, but then we had to redo everything that we had done,” said Professor Julie Duncan, one of two professors in charge of the PenCourt.
Elyce Gamble, an intern working for the cafe, said the cafe staff had to make many adjustments in the last few weeks leading up to school. These adjustments include adding social distance stickers on the ground, extra sanitation of tables, a limited menu, half the capacity of chairs and tables in the dining room, and food served in to-go containers to name a few.
“We are encouraging people to go outside and eat or take it to their classrooms so we can keep crowds low,” she said.
Another precaution allows only 12 students in the kitchen at a time to ensure social distancing.
According to Duncan, the food lab opened a few days earlier this semester to ensure the students get as much experience in the lab as possible before campus switches to online after Thanksgiving Break.
The staff and students expressed their excitement to have the cafe open again. Gamble said the first day went great and she was pleased with the turnout of customers. The students and professors also shared their enthusiasm to continue the legacy of the food lab.
According to Duncan, the food science lab has been on campus since 1962 when it was originally called the Elizabethan Dining Room, located in the now gone Smith Family Living Center. It was moved to the Eyring Science Center in September of 1998 and renamed the Pendulum Court Cafe.
Since then, dietetics and food science students have baked, cooked, cleaned and successfully kept the PenCourt Cafe running for their own learning and other students’ enjoyment.
The cafe is open Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 11:30 a.m. to 1:10 p.m. and Tuesdays from 12-1:10 p.m.