Students from the Culinary Arts program at Eastland Career Center opened The Heritage Room to the public and staff for the first time in the 2023-24 school year last week.
September 20, 2023
From the Fairfield-Eastern Career Center
The door opens to The Heritage Room and a student warmly greets a group of customers with rumbling stomachs. In the back, knives are chopping, pans are sizzling, and instructions are being delivered among about 15 students working together to complete the requests of seated diners. Strong aromas of different spices, meats, and baked goods flood the dining room as the service staff collects incoming orders. A young boy seated with his father can be heard saying “This is really yummy, Daddy!”
Yes, The Heritage Room at Eastland Career Center is open for business once again, delivering delicious meals and desserts to staff, families and community members. It is also providing an unparalleled experience to students in the Culinary Arts program. The first service of the year took place on September 14-15 and the opening week’s menu theme was Central American cuisine.
Valeria Naranjo (Bexley), Ian Tolbert (Canal Winchester), Marvin Figueroa (Groveport Madison), and Madison Smith (Hamilton Township) were chosen to build the menu of the first dining service and chose a Central American theme. The seniors chose to feature entrees that showcase popular foods and ingredients of Central American culture. The final menu created eye-popping excitement and anticipation for the doors to open.
For starters, guests were given the choice of Sopa de Res (a hearty vegetable beef soup) or Ensalada de Mangos (mixed greens with mango yogurt dressing). Next, a selection of fabulous entrees such as Churrasco Sirloin Steak, Fried Yuca Cheese, Pupusa Carnitas, Baleadas Hondurenas, or an Empanada sampler. For those looking for a local dish with a regional flare, Taco Pizza, Double Black Bean Burger, or a chicken and cheese quesadilla. For those who enjoy seafood, the menu provides options including Shrimp Ceviche cocktail and salad, and a grilled swordfish steak topped with mango and pineapple salsa.
For dessert? Guests can select from a Caramel Flan (a rich, sweet custard topped with caramel sauce) or Arroz con Leche (a variation of rice pudding topped with cinnamon), both very popular in Latin American communities.
The experience is not just about cooking a meal; it’s about learning the culture, too.
Valeria and Marvin, both students that are of Central American descent, said that it was fun to cook foods that showcase their heritage, to teach their classmates how to cook them and the cultural significance behind some of the dishes. Valeria was born in Costa Rica and moved to the United States nearly four years ago. Marvin shared that his families are from Honduras and El Salvador.
Ian said that he followed Valeria and Marvin’s lead but stated that the group had to pick different food items to bring variety to the menu and develop recipes for those items.
“It was really cool to see all of that [planning] put into action and actually put out into service,” said Ian.
The Heritage Room provides students in the Culinary Arts program with the unique opportunity to manage and operate an on-site restaurant and provide customers with a fine dining experience as part of building their professional portfolio. It’s part of the reason many students choose the Culinary program, to put knowledge into practice in a very hands-on way.
Over the course of their first two-day service, a steady flow of customers kept both sides of the house busy and delivered some invaluable lessons about working in the hospitality industry. Multiple parents and family members came to support their children preparing meals. Staff members from EFCTS associate schools also visited to support the menu architects.
The young boy finishes the final bits of food on his plate and asks his father, “Can I do this when I grow up?”
Yes, you can. In fact, why wait until you “grow up”? Summer Camp (for students in grades 6-8) is a great way to explore and experiment with careers, including the culinary world, and it will be here before we know it. We invite members of our community, young and not-as-young, to dream big and visit The Heritage Room for an experience within an experience.
The Heritage Room and the Bakeology Bakery are scheduled to be open for business every Thursday and Friday from 10:05 a.m. to 12:10 p.m. (while school is in session) during the first semester. Each week will feature a new menu put together by a different group of senior students. In the second semester, special event-themed dining experiences will be planned and announced. The Heritage Room is open to EFCTS staff, community members, and associate school staff, or by invitation. Reservations are highly recommended and can be made by calling 614-836-5725, ext. 1416.