The sweet smell of fresh-baked cookies is already present and wafting around the kitchen. The air is hot and humid from the ovens, grills and stoves. It’s not even 8 a.m. yet, but students are already hard at work in Restaurant 108.
Restaurant 108 is one of the few classes in the high school in which students with a wide range of academic abilities work together to achieve a common goal.
Paul Carpenter, who co-teaches Restaurant 108 with Beth Ricardelli, said he teams up students of varying academic abilities.
“If we have a person that’s having trouble coping in school, we team them up with somebody in here that is an AP student, they help each other,” Carpenter said. “They can both achieve. That’s part of this program, people working as a team and growing.”
Sophomore Stella Shiffman, who works in Restaurant 108, said that students who have been there for longer act as mentors.
“Kids who were there last year teach other kids how to do things. And since it’s mostly student-run, everyone’s working together,” she said.
Ricardelli said that the students can get to know each other in a collaborative environment.
“It’s a level playing field,” Ricardelli said. “You could be any level in the school and there’s something you can do in the Restaurant.”
There are numerous and diversified jobs in Restaurant 108. The jobs range beyond frying, sauteéing and grilling. While some students have the opportunity to bake sweets, flip burgers, and make salads, Restaurant 108 cannot function without the students who manage the cash register, write menus, do laundry, clean and call out orders for cooks working on the line.
Junior Nia Kiser, who is working in Restaurant 108 for her second year, works the cash register. She said people in the kitchen need to know what’s going on outside of the kitchen, and vice versa.
“In order for this to happen, we all need to communicate in some sort of way,” Kiser said.
Ricardelli said the students in the class end up turning into a family.
“There are a lot of students who won’t even be in classes and will come and visit throughout the day because it’s a place they feel comfortable,” Ricardelli said.
According to Shiffman, the teachers mainly facilitate and make sure things are going well.
“We’re not heavily relying on the teachers. We rely on each other to get things done,” Shiffman said.
Kiser said that there is a lot of responsibility that comes with working in a mostly student-run restaurant.
“Basically, I consider this like a real job, rather than just a class,” she said.
The ultimate goal, according to Carpenter, is for the students to be able to run Restaurant 108 themselves by the end of the year.
“Mondays and Tuesdays we have classes,” Carpenter said. “The students learn the science of the program. They learn all the different types of restaurants, different types of cooking techniques.”
Throughout the day, 300 to 400 students and teachers pass through Restaurant 108 to buy food or drink. None of this would be possible without the collaboration in the kitchen, behind the scenes and in domains unseen by the customers.
“It’s a great opportunity to experience actually working in a restaurant and making food,” Kiser said. “Other high schools don’t have a chance to do that.”