Student-run Cafe sells last lunch

Tomorrow: MVHS serves up a delicious culinary program

The popular Cafe@Culinary served its last meals Friday to long lines of students at Monte Vista High School. The snack bar, which has been run by the school's culinary class for many years, now will be managed by Chartwells, the provider of all the district food services including the cafeteria across the walkway.

Chef Kellie Joe, who has been running the culinary program at Monte Vista High for the past eight years, kept a stiff upper lip Friday, as she said goodbye to vendors delivering their last orders and oversaw her students making soup for their final exam.

"I'm about moving forward and being optimistic," said Joe.

The San Ramon Valley Unified School District made this change because it violated the rule that they cannot have competing food sales, said spokesman Terry Koehne. They proposed changes to Joe, he said, to make the Cafe fall within the directives.

One offer was to continue the Cafe the way it was but running the finances through the district.

Joe said she had reservations about this partnership, feeling it "would mean sacrificing student creativity and autonomy."

"I want my students to work in a fully supportive environment where adults seek to develop their potential and not 'micro-manage' us," she said in an e-mail.

Another offer was to have Joe run the entire food services program, which both she and Koehne agreed would have been a stretch.

"Who would teach my classes?" she asked. "I need to be a teacher."

The Cafe made a daily profit of $25 after expenses, including two hours of pay for Joe, which went toward supporting the culinary class.

"We pay for everything," said Joe, "our own maintenance and replacements. We have 175 teens a day – a lot of wear and tear."

The district will continue to fund the $25 per day to the culinary program through the end of the school year, said Koehne.

"The culinary program is incredible and she's an amazing teacher," he added.

The Cafe offerings were purchased from vendors in the community with ties to the high school, Joe noted.

"We switched to nutritional guidelines, and they worked with me," she said. "We took off the mayonnaise and used half the cheese. It took a whole summer to create that."

She said her criteria for Cafe food was that it be healthy and something that teens like. Entrees were fewer than 400 calories and made fresh daily. Snacks were fewer than 250 calories.

The menu had fresh California Rolls or chicken teriyaki rolls, 12 pieces, for $5. A Togo's turkey and cheese sandwich was $4.75. The High Tech chicken burrito was $4.75. An organic tomato and basil personal pizza was $5. Mochas and vanilla lattes were $3.25, while hot chocolate was $2. Chips, fruit and cookies were $1.

On Friday, the students working in the Cafe bustled around the small, efficient space filling orders. Music by the Shins was broadcast to add to the appeal.

"We designed this for optimum efficiency," said Joe. It has a door opening into the culinary classroom that will be closed off for Chartwells to take over.

Working in the Cafe taught customer service, cash handling and stocking food and supplies as well as food service and barista skills, Joe said. "Now they won't have that."

Michelle McMillen, mother of a freshman in the culinary class, addressed the school board last week, asking to have the Cafe closing on its agenda during a future meeting.

"We would like to see how we can continue the Cafe and not be in conflict," she told the board.

District staff recommended that parents meet with the Assistant Superintendent, Educational Services, to learn about the process for the changes implemented for the Cafe.

Tomorrow: MVHS serves up a delicious culinary program


Like this comment
Posted by Barb
a resident of Danville
on Jan 18, 2010 at 6:59 am

Anytime a teacher takes the initiative to do something extra to help students learn life skills, it should be honored and rewarded. I hope this can happen here. Our young adults deserve to have training opportunities for future jobs as not all students may want to go directly to college. Congratulations to a teacher who has come up with a creative way to make that happen. I've heard that some of her former students have started their own businesses!

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Posted by Julia
a resident of Alamo
on Jan 18, 2010 at 8:15 am

No Surprise...just another brain dead move by the San Ramon Valley "Unified" School District. Must follow the rules. If that's true the SRVUSD should clean up their own house.

Like this comment
Posted by Mary
a resident of Danville
on Jan 18, 2010 at 8:42 am

This is a sad commentary on how this school district, which should be creating opportunities for students, bows to business interests. This is just another example of poor educational decisions. AND, might I add, why is the public finding out about this after the cafe closed? Hopefully something can be done to get the student-run establishment reopened for future years. Chartwells shouldn't have to be the only choice!

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Posted by Alamo Resident
a resident of Alamo
on Jan 18, 2010 at 9:27 am

It's all about $$. Shame on the School District for not working this out. It falls under the "no good deed goes un-punished" rule.

Like this comment
Posted by Shelly, parent of a student in Culinary 1
a resident of Monte Vista High School
on Jan 18, 2010 at 11:32 am

I have had several e-mails back and forth with Terry Koehne and in the last one I received from him he finally admits: "*Also remember that the district’s food services program has been seriously operating in the red (encroaching on our general fund) – eliminating competing food sales will help the program get closer to a “break-even” point. " The district is facing a 7 million short fall. Does anyone REALLY believe the district is going to continue funding the Cafe? I don't. This community has always tried to work with the district to help fund programs that in other districts have fallen to the wayside. The district wants the Cafe? Fine. BUT, state clearly that Chef Joe can create a different way to give the students all those skills by selling her products to Administration, Staff and Parents at any time during the school year. As of right now, Gary Black has stated that she cannot sell products to ANYONE. I dare Mr. Gary Black to prove me wrong by stating unequivocally at a board meeting or in a letter to all parents of SRVUSD that the culinary program at MVHS can sell products to anyone at anytime as long as they are not current students.

Get in an uproar parents. Encourage your teenager to voice their displeasure in a non-damaging, non-violent way by boycotting all food sold at MVHS until the end of the school year.

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Posted by Blackhawk resident
a resident of Monte Vista High School
on Jan 19, 2010 at 10:54 am

This is a travesty! Just another reason why public schools are failing! The bureacratic red tape strangles commonsense and initiative on the part of students and teachers. To all the parents of young children, find a better alternative for your children then to put them in the government run schools.

Like this comment
Posted by Culinary 1 student
a resident of Monte Vista High School
on Jan 19, 2010 at 7:33 pm

I am in the culinary 1 class at Monte Vista this year, and I have learned so much in that class and it's only been one semester, I cook for my family all the time now and they love it. But without the funding from the cafe we can't cook as much because there isn't enough money to pay for all the food, and I'll have you know our lab fee wasn't cheap it's higher than any other class in Monte Vista and it still doesn't cover all the costs. I have a lot of friends that have gone through her 2nd academy class and because they have that kind of work experience they have been able to get jobs at local restaurants. With the economy like it is now you have to be more qualified to get a job. I have personally ate from the both the cafe and the district food, the district food is terrible on both levels of health and taste. When I go to the cafe I know it's healthier, and I feel better about buying lunch when I know it's not processed and fried.
Go Monte Vista Culinary Academy! Help us please

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Posted by Susan Marie
a resident of Danville
on Jan 20, 2010 at 5:55 am

The bottom lines here are district control and company profit. Most parents who are CEOs and financial officers understand perfectly why the district made the decision it made. Whoever the district contracts with must make a profit or else, in this economic (and intellectual) arrangement in which the company mind pretty much decides the lay of the land and controls the market (or tries to). Otherwise, the company takes its services elsewhere. And, given the responsibility of the schools to feed children and not lose money, what are the schools going to do? All that said, I am sad that such an arrangement sounds the death knell of innovative and independent, educational possibility. I wish the district and the Board could have figured out another way. Students in the Monte Vista Culinary Program will still learn how to cook. But now, so many other important lessons are no longer possible in that experience.

Like this comment
Posted by Frustrated
a resident of Green Valley Elementary School
on Jan 20, 2010 at 9:58 am

I hope the cullinary students picket and boycott the MBHS food. I would certainly encourage my kids to if they were there yet.

Like this comment
Posted by Pedal Power
a resident of Danville
on Jan 20, 2010 at 11:17 pm

I have a hard time with this because I can see both sides of the argument but Susan Marie nailed it quite nicely; the district probably had little option.

There is nothing to stop students from voting against MBHS food with their lunch boxes but, on the days when they forget or run out of time to prepare their own lunch, they may live to regret not supporting the MGHS option when the find the cafeteria doors locked because it was uneconomic to keep it open.

There are a couple of good lessons hiding in here:
1. no matter how good or bad the food you serve is, the laws of economics still apply. You might sell quite a lot of crappy food if you can price it cheap enough, and you can make the best food in the world but you won't sell enough to break even the selling price is more than the market can bear.
2. preparing delicious nutritious food is one thing, preparing delicious nutritious food on a tight budget is quite another.

Good luck to all involved.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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