Students learn culinary skills operating school cafe

ST. GABRIEL, LA (WAFB) - They serve up daily specials, offering popular Louisiana dishes. Getting a seat at The Tiger Paw Café isn't always easy because the restaurant isn't open year-round.

For just a few weeks out of the year, this year from November-December, the café is serving up plate lunches in St. Gabriel.

What sets this lunch location apart from all the rest? It's East Iberville High School students running the entire show. Everything from developing the menu, to cooking the food, waiting tables and collecting the bills at the end of the meal.

It's part of Pro-Start, a two-year program for 10-12 grade students looking to earn a career diploma. Delores Pointer, who's in charge of the students, says at the end of the program students leave high school with 12 credit hours toward a culinary degree.

Pro-Start is supported by the Louisiana Restaurant Association.

"We put out things like etouffee, stuffed potatoes, we do daily specials," Pointer said.

The kitchen, inside the school, is divided up into several stations. Some students work beverages, others fry up seafood for the platters, there's a salad station, and a separate grill area.

Junior Albert York says he wants to be a master chef in the future, so he enrolled in the program to get a jump start.

"It's fun. We got busy yesterday and got behind, but it's fun," he said. "People give us thumbs up and say it's good."

With all the good that's going on, there are still reminders that what the students are doing is giving them real life experience.

"This is time number two you have made this mans food late," Pointer said to another student. "I had to comp his meal. In the real world I would have to dock your check."

The Tiger Café also fills to delivery orders.

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