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Student-Run Culinary Café Opens for 2005–06 Season

Grand Opening Brings Crowds of Hungry Customers

Student serving coffee

On November 10, 2005, students at Leo A. Palmiter High School celebrated the annual grand opening of one of Sacramento County's best-kept fine dining secrets: the Culinary Café.

Students are the driving force behind the Café and the Culinary Arts Program at Leo A. Palmiter Junior-Senior High School. They are young people with special needs who have difficulty managing in a conventional school environment. Students in this program learn to prepare meals, serve customers, maintain a clean kitchen and operate a business. They are learning skills designed to help them find employment some day.

"Our Culinary Arts students have the opportunity to learn job skills that make them employable and that's a great accomplishment. The strides they've made from their first day here to now have been inspiring," said social worker Gary Barker.

The Café is a training ground for high school students learning different jobs in the food service field. In-class study, held each school day in a home economics classroom, is put into practice Tuesdays and Thursdays, when the restaurant opens for lunchtime business from the general public.

"Our students find real success and real self-confidence through this program. They are learning what it's like to operate a business. The skills they are learning here are invaluable," said Bev Haffner, Culinary Arts teacher at Palmiter.

Staff at Palmiter consider the Culinary Café a "school to world" program, offering students valuable entry-level job experience, connections with food service professionals, an opportunity for immediate use of their new hands-on skills, and an active way to learn social skills.

"These students take so much pride in their accomplishments. They are determined and dedicated to making their restaurant very successful," said Palmiter Principal Carmen Walker.

The program is a partnership between educational programs within the Sacramento County Office of Education (SCOE), Regional Occupational Program and Special Education Department, drawing upon the expertise and support of other SCOE staff and students.

For $6, dining patrons receive a gourmet-quality meal that is planned, prepared, cooked and served by the students. Menus change every week, offering regular customers-of whom there are many-an opportunity to sample a variety of cuisines.

The Culinary Café is located on the campus of Leo A. Palmiter Junior-Senior High School, 2040 Ethan Way, near Cottage Way and Howe Avenue. [Map]

Lunch is available by reservation only on Tuesdays and Thursdays, 12 noon. Cost per person is $6 and includes vegetable, dessert and beverage. Gratuity is extra. To make reservations, call (916) 566-2039.

Group of culinary students posing
Cafe guests seated at long table