When the third period bell rings at the Applied Technology Center in Montebello, students like Jeeb Gonzalez get to work chopping vegetables, measuring ingredients, plating appetizers and cooking everything from breakfast burritos to fried chicken in the school’s state-of-the-art kitchen.
The pleasing aromas from their culinary creations fill the air, sparking pangs of hunger in anyone nearby.
But food is not the only thing students in ATC’s Culinary, Hospitality, and Educational Foundations (CHEF) pathway have been cooking up.
For the last couple of months, the students have been busily planning for the grand opening of their very own, on campus student-run bistro.
Bistro XV, named for the year of the school’s first graduating class, formally opened Wednesday with a special ribbon-cutting ceremony at the café where school staff and visitors can now buy breakfast and lunch meals prepared entirely by students.
“These students are doing everything you would be doing in a bonafide restaurant,” said ATC Principal Sterling Schubert.
Not only do they do the cooking, they also take care of all the details that go into running a restaurant, according to Schubert.
We never dreamed we would one day be serving the food we cook to paying customers, Senior Kimberly Moran, the bistro’s business manager told EGP
Students said they had been pushing school administrators to let them open a restaurant on campus since 2011, when the program first started.
“Now, we finally get to open and serve people,” Moran said excitedly.
“Now you get to see how passionate we are: You get to see how much effort and love we put into every order,” she said.
Moran may only be 17-years-old but she has all the same responsibilities an adult restaurant manager would have, including overseeing the not-for-profit student-led enterprise’s finances.
Similarly, Executive Chef Jose Cruz and Gonzalez, who serves as sous chef, oversee work in the kitchen, making sure all food orders are up to their standard before they go out to the customer.
As a group, the class discusses the restaurant’s budget, taking into consideration the cost of ingredients before placing orders and developing the Bistro’s menu.
This is nothing like what a typical high school student does, explained Cruz. “I don’t think you can describe the experience,” he said.
Students in ATC’s CHEF pathway attend class in a multi-million dollar kitchen referred to as the “teaching lab.” The equipment they use is of the same quality and caliber found in some top commercial kitchens, says Debbie B. Silveira, an instructor in the culinary arts program.
The goal is for the bistro to eventually be self-sustaining so that it does not have to rely on what it can get from the school’s budget, Schubert said.
The bistro — which currently serves chilaquiles, huevos rancheros and even nopales — has its own separate entrance that allows visitors to enter from the street rather than having to go through the school.
The CHEF pathway is one of four comprehensive, pathways offered at the small school that closely mirrors college and careers. About 160 of the school’s 650 students are in the program. ATC’s instructional approach is project-based learning that requires critical thinking, communication and working as a team. The classes are taught by instructors who have experience in their respective fields.
Students working at Bistro XV “are licensed to prepare and serve food to the public,” said Silveira, explaining the students passed the tests required to receive a California Food Handler Card.
The students have also catered events throughout the District as well as a teacher’s wedding.
Gonzalez told EGP that one of his best times in the program came two years ago when the students were given the opportunity to cater a UCLA event at the Rose Bowl. That’s when he decided to pursue a career in culinary arts, Gonzalez said.
“How many high school students do you know have been to the Rose Bowl and catered an event there,” chimed in Cruz, his face beaming with pride.
“We’re high school students, but we have the [same] real world experience of someone in college.”
Bistro XV is open 9:50-10:10am and 12:10-12:45p.m. Tuesday and Thursdays. ATC is located at 1200 W. Mines Ave.