The Restaurant School, well known among Philadelphians as the place to go for an elegant meal at a bargain price, will move this spring from Center City to a new complex a few blocks from the University. After 16 years at its prime location at 21st and Walnut streets, the school will move to 42nd and Walnut streets, bringing fine dining at student prices to the University's door. The cornerstone of the school's new complex will be the circa-1860 Allison Mansion, the large white house on the hill next to the 7-Eleven store at 42nd and Walnut streets. A new three-story building, complete with an atrium dining room, outdoor courtyard and terrace, will provide the school with room to expand. Restaurant School officials said they look forward to increasing the number of students and patrons. Debbie Dunn, the school's executive director, said the main reason for the move is to enable the school to consolidate its current four buildings into a single one-acre location. The 47-seat restaurant at the school's current location will be exchanged for a dining room capable of accomodating 120 people. Julie Belsterling, the public relations director, said she was "excited" that the school will have better facilities and the capacity for larger events. Admissions Representative Karl Becker said the move should benefit both the school and people in and around the University. The restaurant is very elegant and formal, and its relatively small size provides a cozy atmosphere to the coat-and-tie surroundings. The setting is complemented by large numbers of waiters -- all students -- who stand by, seemingly ready to satisfy any culinary whim. They are also adept at explaining what the various French phrases mean in terms of actual food. Yet despite the plush atmosphere, the prices are very affordable. The school subsidizes the offerings so that there is a fixed price of $13.50 per person for an appetizer and entree. Beverages and desserts are extra -- the cakes, pies, tortes and chocolate mousses are made by the school's on-premises pastry shop. · The school was founded in 1974, and its literature describes it as the first school in the country to train people specifically for work in small restaurants. It opened with 12 students; today there are 240 enrolled. The school offers four basic majors: Chef Training, Pastry Chef Training, Restaurant Management and Hospitality Management. After one year of training and approximately 1000 hours of apprenticeship at a Philadelphia restaurant, students receive an Associate Degree in Specialized Technology. All students take theory classes, demonstration classes and hands-on experience classes, in which they prepare food under an instructor's watchful eye. According to Admissions Represenative Becker, about 80 percent of the training consists of hands-on experience. Students are supervised in the kitchen by the instructor -- who is properly addressed as "Chef" rather than "Professor." Theory classes deal with cooking, wine, pastry preparation and business. Restaurant Management majors learn to own and operate a restaurant. They get first-hand experience running the school's own restaurant. Students prepare the menus, cook the food, serve as waiters, stewards, captains and maitre d's, and do whatever else is required. Hospitality Management majors learn what used to be called "travel and tourism," said Executive Director Dunn. Although they also learn culinary skills, the emphasis is on mastering the sales side of fine dining. They also train to become hotel event managers and cruise line employees; classwork is accentuated by a trip to the Bahamas on a cruise ship and a first-hand look at the operation of Walt Disney World in Orlando. The other two majors, Chef Training and Pastry Chef Training, focus on food preparation. Students at the school are mainly from the Delaware Valley area. However, the school also has a number of foreign students. The average age of the students in the program is 24, but the current participants range in age from 18 to 63. Since the curriculum is intensive, each class is limited to 20. Students work on an alternating schedule, production one week and classes the next. For Restaurant Management students, the production period means a 15-hour day spent at the school restaurant. Pastry chefs have the option of apprenticing at the school's own pastry shop or working at another establishment. Last week, the school worked in conjunction with the mayor's Office of Community Service to sponsor a Thanksgiving dinner for approximately 200 senior citizens and homeless people. The office donated 10 turkeys and the school prepared the full meal, adding other foods. According to Belsterling, the school caters charity functions about once a month. · The restaurant is open for dinner from Tuesday to Saturday. Seatings are at 5:30 p.m., 6 p.m., 6:30 p.m., 8 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. Reservations must be made in advance, and Saturdays are especially busy -- the restaurant is already booked for the next four Saturdays.Comments powered by Disqus
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