Diners enjoyed an upscale, four-course lunch at a new Macon eatery Friday featuring poached pear salad, minestrone soup, pan-seared chicken and creme brulee with berries.
The tables were filled for the soft opening of Compass Rose Cafe, the new student-run restaurant at Hutchings College and Career Academy.
Under the guidance of executive chef Stuart Hardy and chef Mark Robinson, 22 sophomores, juniors and seniors in the school’s culinary arts and hospitality and tourism pathways served and cooked for the invitation-only gathering of community partners and officials.
Compass Rose, which can seat 80, will have two or three more private servings to give students extra practice time, and the grand opening will be sometime in February. Initially, it will be open to the public for lunch three to five days a week, said Hutchings Director Barbara Alston. The four-course menu will rotate weekly.
“We had a fabulous lunch. Everything was high quality. It’s that extra level of service,” said Roy Bibb, president of MidSouth Community Federal Credit Union. “We think (Hutchings) is a fabulous place for kids. It provides an interactive way to learn about your options beyond your math and science.”
Students are enrolled in a base high school but attend classes at Hutchings, where they can also earn college credits, said Cassandra Washington, CEO of Hutchings and Bibb County director of Career Technical and Agricultural Education.
All of the pathways are aligned to job demand in the area, and instructors are industry certified, Alston said. Classrooms are set up like professional spaces to give students real-world experience. For instance, there’s a hair and nail salon for cosmetology instruction, a print shop for graphic design communication, and a credit union will open in the fall for banking and finance.
A fully functioning restaurant was a natural fit for the culinary arts and hospitality and tourism programs, Alston said. The school already offers student-run catering services to the community, and it has done as many as seven jobs in one week since starting in the fall.
Students see how academics are tied to practice and how the different pathways connect. They learn relevant lessons and skills, become college and career ready and get experience with teamwork.
“They’re learning the pace of the industry. They’re learning the expectations of food quality,” said Hardy, who came to Hutchings eight months ago and has run a student restaurant before. “I see smiling faces and a lot of empty plates.”
The restaurant’s name goes along with Hutchings’ theme, the compass. It refers to the direction students follow to their future, and a “compass rose” is the figure that points out north, south, east and west on a map, Washington said.
Azaria Oliver, a sophomore at Southwest High School, chose Hutchings’ culinary arts pathway because she wants to be an executive chef. She hopes to study at Le Cordon Bleu College or Helms College after she graduates. On Friday, she prepared the main course and soup and kept the other students on track.
“This program opened my mind to different things and different techniques,” she said. “It will help me get used to being in the kitchen.”
Jason Smith, a Southwest High senior in the hospitality pathway at Hutchings, plans to join the Army and then go to nursing school. The customer service experience from Compass Rose will help greatly in the nursing field, he said, as he strives to make people comfortable.