Sparkling white linens covered the tables. Hardworking servers stood ready in their crisp uniforms. An appetizing aroma floated in from the kitchen making customers ready to dig in.
This was the scene on October 16 as local educators and civic leaders helped celebrate the 16th annual grand re-opening of the Sacramento County Office of Education (SCOE) Culinary Café. The Café, a valuable learning experience, is the Sacramento region's best kept dining secret.
Students are the driving force behind the Café and the Culinary Arts Program. Culinary students from Leo A. Palmiter and Elinor Lincoln Hickey Jr./Sr. High Schools do everything from preparing food, to serving customers, to cleaning up the kitchen and classroom. Participants in the program are young people facing educational challenges who are learning employment and social skills. Many students who have been successful in the Culinary Arts program have gone on to land jobs in Sacramento-area restaurants.
During the grand re-opening, invited guests were treated to a lunch including red leaf salad with Mediterranean Tzatziki dressing, grilled lemon garlic chicken, warm pita bread, herb roasted potatoes, and pumpkin cheesecake. Produce grown by students in their on-campus garden is often featured in Culinary Café dishes. Produce is also periodically offered for sale at the school's "Urban Oasis" neighborhood farmers market.
The Palmiter and Hickey campuses are operated by SCOE to serve special student populations. During the grand re-opening, students enrolled in the Sacramento Regional Occupational Program Culinary Arts course showcased the food preparation and service skills they have learned from Chef/Instructor Jeff Zahniser.
The Culinary Café is located at Leo A. Palmiter High School, 2040 Ethan Way (corner of Ethan Way and Cottage Way, three blocks north of Arden Fair Mall).
The Café is now accepting lunch reservations for Thursday seatings that start October 23. Dates and menus are posted online. Lunch costs $7 (gratuity not included). All proceeds go back into the program. Those interested in making lunch reservations should call the Culinary Café at (916) 228-2039.