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Student-Run Café Opens for the 2022–23 School Year

Culinary Program Teaches Employability and Social Skills

Students posing in front of the Culinary Cafe neon sign

Students prepared and served lunch at the 2022–23 opening of the Culinary Café at Palmiter Jr./Sr. High School where they are learning valuable, real-world skills.

Local educators, Sacramento County Board of Education trustees, and other guests attended the kickoff of one of Sacramento County’s best-kept fine dining secrets today: the Culinary Café at Leo A. Palmiter Jr./Sr. High School.

The Sacramento County Office of Education (SCOE) program is reopening for lunch after a hiatus due to COVID-19 restrictions. While school staff found creative ways for students to continue building skills—projects like at-home meal kits, a series of “Cooking in the Classroom” video lessons that helped strengthen math skills, and catering food for a variety of events and meetings—the mood was particularly jubilant as the Café returned to serving meals in person.

Today’s opening showcased the food handling and serving skills students are learning from Culinary Arts Instructor Stephen Hazelton. Invited guests enjoyed roasted chicken breast with a red pepper cream sauce, asparagus, garlic mashed potatoes, a salad of mixed greens, and a fruit tart for dessert. About 30 students are currently involved—including some from the neighboring E. L. Hickey Community School—typically preparing and serving 40 meals each week, including cleanup duties.

School staff report hearing almost weekly from enthusiastic former students who have been able to increase their confidence and use the practical skills they’ve learned. One successful graduate recently reported that he’s applying his skills in a new job as a line cook for a local hotel.

Launched in the 1998–99 school year, the Culinary Café helps students with educational challenges, teaching them social and employability skills. The restaurant is open to the public and meals are reasonably priced at just $10 (gratuities appreciated). Students get food service experience and an opportunity to earn a valuable ServSafe food handling certification, which gives them a leg up when applying for work.

The SCOE Culinary Arts Program is a component of the Sustainable Environments Learning Academy, which promotes food literacy and builds career skills. Produce grown by students is included in many of the dishes served at the Culinary Café. Many students also take part in the WorkAbility/Transition Partnership program that helps them successfully transition from school to work or post-secondary education, placing a significant number of SCOE students in jobs at Sacramento-area businesses.

Make a Lunch Reservation

The Culinary Café will be serving lunch at noon on most Thursdays for the rest of the school year, starting November 10, 2022. Proceeds are invested back into the program.

Reservations are required. Call the Culinary Café at (916) 228-2039.


Update 11/3/22: Updated start date for public lunch service.

Nancy Herota speaking

Sacramento County Deputy Superintendent Nancy Herota welcomed guests to the opening celebration for the 2022–23 school year.

Lauren Roth speaking

Principal Lauren Roth was reminded that she has supported the Culinary Café as a teacher and a principal since the very beginning—in 1998.

Stephen Hazelton speaking

Culinary Instructor Stephen Hazelton recognized students for their hard work in preparing and serving the meals.

Students gathered around teacher Stephen Hazelton

Students prepared and served roasted chicken breast with a red pepper cream sauce for the first lunch of the year.