The Hospitality Management and Culinary Arts Program at Tri-C is one of the best in the region. Three years ago when the Eastern Campus of Tri-C built a state-of-the-art full service restaurant, things got even better.
Named Cafe 4250, this gem is helping to mold our region's future hospitality work force. The restaurant offers instruction on two fronts simultaneously. The first teaches students the art of service and the front-of-house operations (serving, busing, hosting and management), while the second teaches back-of-house cooking training.
Leading the program is veteran chef instructor Michele Gaw, who oversees a group of 8-10 students. "I love to cook and make people happy," she says. "My second love is teaching. So I have the best of both worlds — I get to teach something that I am truly passionate about."
Each course lasts eight weeks, at which point the student base and menu change entirely. Chef Gaw scripts the menu for each course with two focuses in mind — seasonality and functionality. "Since we are in an educational setting, the menu must be designed with all the kitchen stations in mind so each student has a similar amount of exposure," she says.
Chef Gaw empowers one student each week to act as chef de cuisine. "The chosen student is responsible for creating a menu, which includes appetizer, entree complete with starch and vegetable, and dessert," says Gaw. They also are responsible for all preparation and service of their dishes.
During my visit, I was graciously greeted by a hostess, who then guided me to a formally set table, complete with white tablecloth and linen napkins. The hostess pulled my chair out before reciting the specials and soup of the day. She even removed the extra place settings. Not too shabby for a student with no prior restaurant experience. The server quickly followed, offered up his name, and dropped a basket of house-baked breads and muffins. Both the focaccia and the banana muffin were warm and delicious.
Not only does the menu stand up to those in far trendier bistros – nothing costs more than $8! In the buffalo chicken egg rolls ($5), a wrapper is stuffed with buffalo spiced chicken, celery, green onion, pepper sauce, and crumbled blue cheese. The deep-fried crisp fried exterior is the perfect counter to the hot and creamy blue cheese. In the Cuban burger ($8), a combination of ground beef, pork and chorizo is spiced with onion, garlic and cumin. The burger is served on a potato bun with LTO, remoulade sauce and house-made sweet potato chips.
For dessert I ordered the frozen Devil's Food raspberry whipped cream sandwich ($3), a layered treat with cake and raspberry whipped cream. Other items that looked fantastic include the cafe chopped salad ($6), the six-spice hanger steak ($9) and the open-face chicken caprese sandwich ($8).
Cafe 4250 is open to the public and also caters to the hundreds of employees and students at the Eastern Campus. During the eight-week session, Cafe 4250 is open for lunch only Wednesday and Thursday from 11:30 a.m.—1 p.m. Guests are advised to call 216-987-2496 for reservations or log onto http://www.tri-c.edu/programs/hospitality-management for menu information.
The goal at Cafe 4250 is to provide an environment where students can be exposed to the workings of a real-life restaurant. The experience not only helps the students, but also every diner they will come in contact with in the future.