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Butler Tech turns culinary students into restaurant owners

Posted at 5:32 PM, Mar 05, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-05 18:10:08-05

FAIRFIELD, Ohio — Butler Tech culinary arts student Aubrey Moore has always known she wanted to cook for a living, she said Thursday. She was still daunted by the challenge that instructor Tyler Simpson laid out for her this spring: Running a restaurant on her own, for real, for two days.

Taking the helm at Cafe Lee — the campus’s student-run restaurant — meant drawing up a menu, buying ingredients, setting up the kitchen, organizing her classmates into a staff and preparing to serve up to 100 customers during her two-day term as head chef.

“It is a ton of work,” Moore said. “At first I was nervous about it, but now that it happened, I’m happy that I did it.”

“Ownership” of Cafe Lee changes each week, according to instructor Tyler Simpson, giving every member of his class the opportunity to get hands-on, real-time experience in the industry they hope to enter. Moore turned it into a Thai restaurant; in January and February, her classmates created menus themed around Italian, French, Puerto Rican and Southern dishes.

“It gives them the opportunity to see what it’s like to be a chef, the stresses that go into it, the time it takes to create the menu,” he said, adding: ““They do a really great job, actually. They all seem to answer the call, especially when we’re busy. They work hard.”

They brought in some of the largest crowds the cafe has ever seen, he said.

The cafe’s customers have included working chefs who stopped in to get a look at the new talent coming out of Butler Tech. Jared Beckman, head chef at the Lonely Pine Steakhouse, said he was impressed by what he saw.

“What really impressed me today, being someone in this industry, is that they’re actually running full services here,” he said. “So they’re started to learn more than what they would learn in the classroom.”

Cafe Lee will be open twice weekly from 11:30 a.m. - 1 p.m. until April 9. A full schedule along with the upcoming menu themes is available here.