At first glance, the Art and Bev’s Bistro may look like any other Campus restaurant, with student employees and a head chef keeping things running.
But here at Grand Rapids Community College, there’s more to this group operation than you might think. This kitchen is actually the setting of a five credit lab, and the students here are learning how to manage a restaurant of their own. Art and Bev’s has been part of GRCC’s culinary program for 18 years, and its purpose is to teach culinary students many of the necessary skills it takes to operate a fast-paced restaurant.
Chef Michael Whitman, the course instructor and head chef, says that the main purpose of the class is to give students hands-on management experience.
“With this class, the emphasis is not so much cooking, it’s having the students learn management skills on running a small operation, though they do do some cooking,” Whitman said. Whitman describes the bistro as an outlet for the student’s baking skills, as items made in baking classes are also sold there.
This might seem a little hard, but some of the students have been doing it long enough that it comes naturally.
“It’s easy if you have experience,” stated Greg Anderson, one of the students in the course. And the bistro runs smoothly enough that the students can go through a lot of food items. Anderson estimates, “300 items each day, I believe.”
Sounds just like a real restaurant, right? There are some similarities, but it’s not exactly the same. The students who take this class are not paid. Instead the money they make selling their food is used to reimburse the college for equipment and food expenses. This establishment also uses clean energy and the items they use are completely compostable. The students in this course are also taught everything on a rotating basis. One day, a student will be helping to make pizzas, and the next day they might be up front at the cash register.
“It’s a very intense learning setting for the students,” Whitman said.
Art and Bev’s Bistro is open Tuesday through Friday every week, through Nov. 22. Lunch prices range from $4-$7, and the bistro is located in the Applied Technology Center on the second floor (up the stairs from the main entrance). The bistro sells baked goods as well as sandwiches, burgers, pizza, soup and salads. All food, with the exception of salad, can be cooked to order.