Published in The Indiana Gazette (www.indianagazette.net) on March 29, 2010
By HEATHER ROTH
It’s almost noon on a warm and sunny Wednesday, and Shyla Frederick is watching the tables fill up at Allenwood Restaurant in IUP’s Ackerman Hall.
Carrying a clipboard, she hurries from the tables back to the kitchen, keeping an eye on her staff and visiting with guests. One server isn’t signing his orders; someone put the fettuccine Alfredo in a deep bowl so the portion looks skimpy; a big group is coming in at noon, make sure a table is reserved; thanks for coming, do you need anything?
Today, Frederick, a junior, is the general manager of the student-run restaurant; next week she could be the dishwasher.
“It’s stressful because everything relies on you,” she said. “You can say something and sometimes they don’t listen to you … and scheduling — I’m not looking forward to doing that.”
Allenwood is run by the students in the hospitality management program at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. Primarily juniors and seniors, the students handle every aspect of the restaurant — menu planning, deciding how much food to buy, marketing, cooking and serving. They decorate the tables and make the menus, and even schedule each other’s shifts. One class runs it on Wednesdays, another on Fridays. And each week they rotate who does what.
“I want them to feel what it’s like to run a restaurant,” said Jim Bosco, who teaches the Advanced Food Preparation class that includes running Allenwood. “It’s getting the students used to being able to make their own decisions.”
Bosco graduated from the program himself, and worked for restaurant corporations including The Cheese-cake Factory and Houston’s. Now he’s back, teaching a new generation of hospitality professionals.
“These kids are phenomenal,” he said. “They’re willing to do anything.”
For this year’s class of 37 students, “anything” has ranged from a walking sandwich board to chalk art. There’s a Facebook page where menus are posted, and a Twitter account. Then there are the menus that appear all over campus on Wednesdays and Fridays.
“My goal is to have at least 40 guests in here, because that’s the minimum number that gives a good learning experience,” Bosco said.
This year they’re averaging closer to 50; by noon that Wednesday afternoon, every table was taken.
Tom Barnes is a chef first. From Clymer, he went to culinary school in Punxsutawney before transferring into the program, where he’s also majoring in baking and pastry arts. He also cooks for Nap’s Cucina Mia in Indiana. Last week he was kitchen manager; this week he was assembling buffalo chicken salads and teaching less experienced co-workers the best ways to make quesadillas.
“We just divvy up the tasks,” he said.
As kitchen manager last week, he helped come up with the recipes for the menu items, including a recipe for homemade potato chips. He said he experimented at home one night before trying to tell that week’s cooks how to make it.
“I’ve never really done that before,” Barnes said.
When he made a bread pudding, he had to change the recipe to make it work for large quantities.
“(I like) just being in the kitchen, first and foremost,” he said as he explained all the different ranges, grill tops, griddles and steam kettles. “This is a dream kitchen.”
The restaurant opens at 11 a.m. Wednesdays and Fridays, but most of the students are there by 9 a.m. to prepare. At least one gets there even earlier each day to make sure everything is ready for the day.
But Candice Craig, of Peters Township, said she looks forward to the class each week.
“I love it, it’s my most fun class,” she said. “I actually look forward to class even when we come in early.”
Craig has worked in “the front of the house” operations, and said she likes the opportunity to learn about the kitchen aspect.
“I didn’t understand the back of the house,” she said.
Dr. Thomas Van Dyke, chairman of the hospitality management department at IUP, also graduated from the program and said it focuses on the practical aspects of the field.
“When our students graduate, this is one of the courses they say made in impact,” he said. “It gives the students real-world experience.”
He named alumni who worked for places such as Chestnut Ridge or Ritz-Carlton, or started their own restaurants. Eat ‘N Park hires many graduates as well.
“There are just so many opportunities for our students once they graduate,” Van Dyke said. “People always have to eat and sleep.”
The menu at the Allenwood changes each week. Wednesday’s lunch offerings were buffalo chicken salad topped with crispy, homemade potato fries or roast beef on a ciabatta roll and covered in gravy to fettuccini Alfredo or chicken quesadillas. A cup of tortilla soup or small garden salad served as appetizers. Even the dessert is different each week.
Bosco said the menu choices are made by the students, with minimal guidance from him.
“There’s been very little that’s been suggested to me that I didn’t approve,” he said. “We talk about it.”
And Van Dyke said he can see the students’ professional maturity grow as they progressed through the program.
“We have some great students, they do a great job,” he said.
The Allenwood is open for lunch from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesdays and Fridays, and carry-out is available. For specials, call (724)-357-2626.