Campus restaurant gives real-world experience to culinary arts students at North Central Technical

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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) – Cooking students at North Central Technical College are testing ways to run their own restaurant. The campus restaurant “Spoon” lets students create their own menus and concepts to see how successful they can be in the real world.

“Spoons” is a fully functional restaurant at NTC, where students get to learn all aspects of operations. Culinary instructors in the program teach students both in the front and back of the home.

“So we have some students running the dining room, some students running the kitchen and putting it all together. So they see how the whole operation will work,” said chef Travis Tesca, a culinary instructor at NTC.

When school starts in the fall, culinary instructors at NTC tell students which menu they want to use at Spoon. But when spring arrives, students get to tell culinary instructors what they want on the menu. Menus change depending on how many students are in the class, but each student will present their own menu for their set amount of time.

“This is an opportunity for the student to test his or her idea and get feedback. Do people like it, don’t they like it? Students will have to price the dishes and run numbers to make sure that’ Hey, we can actually make a living doing this,’ or, ‘Hey, that’s a cool idea, but there’s no way to make money on it.’ So the ultimate idea like this is to give them that opportunity, Chef Tesca said.

Right now, the menu at Spoon is based on the mac and cheese restaurant. But other ideas to come include pizza, Cajun and Creole and a steakhouse supper club.

When it comes to creativity in creating recipes and menus, he said it’s not about memorizing the recipes, but it’s the technique.

“Anyone can follow a recipe, we want our students to get to the point where they don’t need a recipe. So we teach techniques how to grill, how to fry, how to broil, how to fry, and then the students Can start learning their creativity and taste the dishes they want.”

Spoons are only open when students are learning to run the restaurant, with the public invited to try out concepts by reservation only.

“We’re a learning lab, we want to measure how engaged we are to make sure it’s a realistic learning opportunity. And we’re not putting students under excessive stress, we want some stress Because the restaurant industry is busy and can be very stressful. But we want to make sure that we are just keeping our arms around it,” he said.

To make a reservation, 715-803-1413. call on

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