Faculty pitches student-run restaurant


The Bistro before opening on one of the Fridays it is open.

If the limited use of the industrial-grade kitchen at the bottom of the Career Academy has been bothering anyone, a new possibility that has opened up relating to its use could be the solution.

Inspired by other schools with similar projects, a group of faculty members including Career/Tech Education Director Duane Sprull, Principal Arlethea Williams, and Culinary Arts teachers Jules Shelkoff and Kyle Hires will be traveling to Lanier Charter Career Academy on Friday Dec. 12. The purpose of this visit is to look at something different that the school has been doing with their culinary tools and students.

“Every so many Fridays, they open up their facility as a restaurant,” Sprull said. “We’re looking at doing something like that.”

A normal day at the counter, a student takes a customer's order while one of her classmates works with drinks.
A normal day at the counter, where a student takes a customer’s order while one of her classmates works with drinks.

The Bistro at the Oaks is a restaurant created on Sept. 10, 2010, by the Academy, to help Culinary students gain hands-on skills in the restaurant and hospitality career path. This idea, which has been floating around for a not-insignificant amount of time, is finally going into the first stages of its development: deciding whether or not it will happen.

“They have a culinary kitchen like we do, and a small diner space,” Sprull said. “It’s reservation only. I don’t want food to be sole focus that we’re providing, but I want it to be available to a variety of students [to work in].”

The most prominent benefits, according to Sprull and some of the others traveling to the academy, are the opportunities the students will have in the working environment. Hires, one of the Culinary Arts teachers going to the scouting mission, holds the same view.

“I think it will help to catapult the kids who are truly serious about the Culinary Arts,” Hires said. “The students that get the opportunity to intern or work in the restaurant establishment will be ready for the culinary & hospitality industry, if they choose to pursue that pathway.”

With this idea of advancing skills in the Culinary Arts Pathway, the most serious students in the class have jumped on the idea. William Whatley is a sophomore at Decatur, and is one of these students. He hopes the opening will create many opportunities for students like him.

“I’d be excited about the offering of work-based learning opportunities for students,” Whatley said. “It would be very doable for those doing work-based learning [as a course] and a select few more.”

Culinary Arts students wouldn’t be the only ones working in the restaurant. Sprull sees the potential of the project to help other students with career and business related skills.

“Students could earn credit by working in the school restaurant,” Sprull said. “And I want it to be available to a [variety] of students, including Culinary students and Special Needs students working as servers, the register… The average student could participate in one of those roles. It’s kind of for the every-man.”

It seems the student-run restaurant will remain in the minds of students and faculty alike until the day it is either created or discarded. Until then, the wait for the final decision goes on.