Student Chef turns up the heat

Social Media Editor, Evelyn Villalobos, cuts into chicken breast to prepare a food order. PHOTO BY FRANCINA SANCHEZ
Social Media Editor, Evelyn Villalobos, cuts into chicken breast to prepare a food order. PHOTO BY FRANCINA SANCHEZ

I’ve always envied people who can cook or bake something in the kitchen without burning it.

It seems as if I have the opposite of the Midas touch, everything I touch turns burnt.

I’m not exactly the person you want to make you dinner, but that doesn’t stop me from trying, despite my mother’s efforts to do so.

The Culinary Arts Program on campus has always caught my attention with the mouth-watering smells of whatever the students have cooking.

Whether it’s Student Chef, the student-run restaurant located inside Danner Hall on campus or the booth outside near the quad area, Delta students flock to the smell of good food at great prices.

As an avid supporter of Student Chef throughout my time at Delta, I was always on the receiving end of the process.

At times, I would see the culinary students cooking outdoors but I had no idea how much hard work and preparation went into making Student Chef a success.

Alicia Lopez, Culinary Arts student, has been in the kitchen are practically her whole life.

“I have a big family,” said Lopez. “I was always in the kitchen either helping or just watching my Grandma. This is a wonderful program. You get a lot of one-on-one experience from Chef.”

Chef Mark Berkner has been the Culinary Arts instructor who manages Student Chef for eight years.

He has an incredible amount of experience in running restaurants and he treats Student Chef no differently.

Berkner first introduced me to the program, Student Chef, and how it all comes together.

He explained the duties of students in the program and how they are all included in a rotation of jobs which they hold for about two weeks so they can gain experience in all areas of the restaurant.

I was then introduced to Chef Nick Garcia, the teacher’s assistant for Student Chef.

Garcia is a Stockton Police Department retiree who follows the motto that “it is never too late” to try something new and encouraged me to take on the day.

Garcia walked me through a quick tour of the kitchen and better explained the jobs students had while dealing with the ‘hot plates,’ where I would be exploring that day.

These jobs are sautéing, grilling, plating and expediting.

Each job is crucial to getting food out in a timely manner and that day was each of the students’ first time performing their new jobs.

The kitchen was filled with mixed emotions of stress, nervousness and excitement.

A few minutes into opening, problems arose and there was a minor freak out.

The ticket machine that sends orders from the restaurant wasn’t printing out papers, so the routine of things was thrown off and the students got to work immediately.

Lopez had the job of expediting that day.

Her job is to call all of the orders as they come in and make sure the food is being plated and ran out in a timely manner.

“There’s so much urgency,” said Lopez. “I feel like jumping in and helping out, but I’ve got to just stand back and do my part.”

Because I lacked training, and let me remind you of the anti-Midas touch, I didn’t get much experience in getting the food out to customers.

This doesn’t mean I didn’t learn anything.

All students are learning throughout this process and are using knowledge and resources to the best of their abilities.

Every student I met was friendly and has a passion for food and their part of Student Chef.

Next week is the last week of operation this spring for Student Chef. The final days for service this semester are April 25-26.