ASU's Kitchen Cafe serves up a taste of professional experience

The cafe is set to open the week of Jan. 29

The Kitchen Cafe on ASU's downtown Phoenix campus allows students to gain professional restaurant experience and provides healthy on-campus options for the community to enjoy.

The Kitchen Cafe, which opens for the semester the week of Jan. 29, is an upper-division course that is part of the Management of Food Systems program, according to the kitchen's website. The cafe gives nutrition students the opportunity to take on all the duties and responsibilities of a real job in the food industry before they head off to internships and jobs. 

The cafe features a changing menu and different cuisines throughout the semester.

Kenneth "Kent" Moody, the cafe's supervisor and head chef, said he teaches students the importance of learning every aspect of the restaurant environment and focuses on getting students comfortable in every food service role.

“Our students get experience working as servers, food runners, line cooks, prep cooks and even cleaning stewards,” he said. “We want our students to go on and be general managers or directors.” 

The Kitchen Cafe provides an environment for beginner restaurant workers to cut their teeth before entering the professional world. 

“A lot of our students have never worked in food service before so they are nervous to be in the kitchen," Moody said. "Students go into internships with food service, and we want them to be comfortable in any kitchen."

He said the training throughout the semester eventually leads the students to independently run the cafe by the end of the course.

“During the semester, our students actually work on a large capstone project where they create their own restaurant," Moody said. “They come up with their own menus. They standardize recipes, do food costs, place orders. Then they are actively running their own restaurant by the end of the semester.”

Selicia Mayra, teaching assistant for the cooking labs and cafe and a graduate student studying dietetics, said she focuses on teaching students what she learned during her education.

“Now that I am teaching this class, something I really want to have the students to take away is they are actually making a difference," Mayra said. "It is not just for the grade. It is real life skills.” 

Sasha Bayat, a senior studying dietetics, said the cafe also gave her the knowledge to pursue larger goals.

“The cafe provided me with the education and experience that I needed to manifest one of my ideas, The Bodhi," she said. "Every single day, I go into work and ensure that my staff is properly prepared … I can say with absolute certainty that this wouldn't have been possible without my experience in the cafe.”

Bayat said she advises future students to follow their professors' advice and take advantage of the opportunities presented.

“I can only speak (the) best about the nutrition professors," she said. "ASU offers a diverse and wide variety of options — you have access to nearly every and the best of resources."

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