Clinton High’s Court Cafe serves up success

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A program at Clinton High School really offers food for thought. Select students learn the rules of the restaurant business, and it's cooking up careers.

Follow tempting aromas to the on-campus kitchen on Friday morning. That's where you'll find Nicole Geerts. The senior, 18, has a challenging assignment. She's prepping a four-course meal at The Court Cafe. Some 30 guests will enjoy it.

"I had to figure out a soup, a salad, entree, side dish and dessert," she said.

Eight advanced students represent the cream of the crop. Inside the school's Culinary Arts Program, they get real restaurant experience while earning college credits.

That includes fun and tension that accompanies work in food service.

"It gets really stressful," said senior Brooke Dann, 17. "It gets really crazy sometimes."

Each Monday they take a field trip to Rastrelli's in Clinton. That's where they get lessons at the popular restaurant. It's a chance to learn kitchen technique for these budding chefs.

"You will get hands-on experience," said senior Garry Dithmart, who also works at Rastrelli's. "You will figure out what you want to do through this program."

It's certainly more than just cooking. There are lessons about teamwork and completing projects. These are career-building skills they'll take from Clinton High.

After graduation, several students have moved on to jobs in the restaurant industry.

"They spend an awful lot of time collaborating, working with each other and learning about each other," said teacher Brenda Rasche, who has operated the program for five years.

Guests enjoy a delightful meal from bright and talented students. Twice-weekly, it's just like a real restaurant right at school.

"Hey, this is a job," Dithmart continued. "If I'm really into it, it's going to teach me a lot."

Kitchen lessons to keep them cooking for a lifetime.