When you dine at Elevation you are helping prepare the next generation of industry leaders, according to Gene Fritz, executive chef at Cascade Culinary Institute.
Elevation is Central Oregon Community College’s student run restaurant. The students preparing and serving lunch are going through a training called capstone, Fritz explained.
“Capstone is the most important part of the program,” Fritz said. “Students are able to learn in a caring, supporting, and reality-based setting.”
During this part of their training, students learn all aspects of the skills required to run a restaurant from back kitchen to serving customers.
“The program is set as a rotation where students go through all the stations. It’s a checkpoint of ‘do you have the skills to succeed in a restaurant setting?’” Fritz said. “The goal for students is to experience everything they’ve done here in a full-immersion course.”
Elevation is the culinary program’s “point of connection” with the community, according to Fritz.
“The customers that come here realize it is students doing all of the work, and that’s something worth investing in,” Fritz said.
Having a restaurant that is open to the community is a crucial part of the student learning experience, explained Fritz.
“Students then realize what it means to be under the pressure of having a paying customer waiting on them,” Fritz said. “By working in a restaurant environment, students get payback from an industry that loves to serve people.”
This focus on customer service is important in the culinary industry and is something CCI students are trained on, according to Fritz.
“Students learn everything from back kitchen to opening a bottle of wine with expertise,” Fritz said. “Even working back kitchen, interaction with guests is so important.”
CCI seeks to train students in the highest standards of the industry, according to Mike Cooper, instructor at CCI.
“Dining at Elevation is a white tablecloth experience,” Cooper said. “While students are here, they learn the highest standards of service and production. When they leave here they won’t find higher standards for this industry.”
Cooper believes the dedication of the instructors contributes to making the program successful.
“I’m happy to be a part of this industry. The faculty are dedicated to their profession and students,” Cooper said. “We don’t allow the instructors to just skate through. Each one is very excited about getting students the skills they need to leave here and be successful.”