Students cooking under pressure

Roberto Hodge, Multicultural Editor

He had to come up with the menu to serve his customers within four weeks on top of purchasing the food, up to $13, to serve customers in order to run his own restaurant, Pantera Tuesday evening.

Alex Anderson, a senior family and consumer sciences major, said he enjoyed going through the simulation of running his own restaurant in real-time, which is part of the family and consumer sciences curriculum.

Pantera, which is Spanish for panther, is the name of the restaurant. Students are given the chance to run the resaurant located in Khlem Hall for an entire night with help from professional chefs from around the Eastern-Charleston area.

“Everyone gets the rush of (running) a restaurant,” Anderson said. “It’s a good feeling when you get the food out.”

Anderson, who acted both as the meal manager and chef, was the first in his class to start the restaurant simulation for the semester. He said he expected something to go wrong, but still had a good time and enjoyed it.

He said trying to get everyone to understand and act on his personal vision was difficult along with the unanticipated 40 customers who attended. Anderson said he was running out of whipped cream so he had to use a smaller amount.

He added the team got off to a good start and everything was running smoothly with the customers liking everything that was served, but he wished he could have seasoned the food a little more heavily.

Anderson said he received nothing but positive comments from the food.

Despite enjoying what he’s doing, Anderson said he’s unsure of it he wants to do it for a career, but has thought about it.

“I love cooking, but it will always be an option (rather) than a commitment,” Anderson said.

Jim Painter, a family and consumer sciences professor and the one in charge of the entire course, said he began the course when he was at the University of Illinois. He has a restaurant called “Spice Box,” and he said wanted to bring something similar to Eastern.

Painter said the idea of the restaurant is to allow students to run their own business for a night, where they purchase, prepare and serve their own food. Once finished, they must write up their own profit or losses with the food.

“They learn everything they need to know to start up their own restaurant,” Painter said.

From running Pantera students should be able to handle customer complaints and anything that comes at them he added.

There were two separate menus to help avoid possible allergies, but there may be a time when that’s not enough and the student must create a new meal to accommodate to that person, Painter said.

“They have to learn on the fly,” Painter said.

Painter explained he is entering his seventh year doing this. He said they have done something like this, but he was able to get restaurant chefs to come and help the students from Effingham, Champaign, and Paris.

“It’s a real hands on field of study,” Painter said of the simulation.

Paul Mejdrich, the food and beverage director of the Brick House Bar and Grill restaurant, said he has been helping the students out with their restaurant for three years. Over the course of his tenure on the project, he has seen students who have been enthusiastic about running their own business.

He meets with the students and helps them with their vision of the restaurant. Mejdrich said he may hand out food ideas for the menu, but overall the students run everything.

Mejdrich said he has a better idea of what to expect when helping students, and the most common issue they have is anticipating productivity and plating.

“When you cook for a lot of people, you really need a lot of direction,” Mejdrich said.

Roberto Hodge can be reached at 581-281 or [email protected]