Bulls Bistro event in Lakewood Ranch prepares USF students for a culinary future.
Connor Flick, a senior at the University of South Florida at Sarasota-Manatee, was debating an important issue with junior classmate Macaire Myers at the Bulls Bistro event July 12 at the university's Lakewood Main Street location.
They were trying to decide where to place the pastry, as well as the blueberry compote Myers was ladling, on the plate.
“If we place the pastry in the corner of the plate and smear the blueberry sauce under it, it’ll look really cool and elegant,” said Flick.
While many of those eating the dessert during Bulls Bistro were more concerned with the taste, those in Introduction to Food Production Management know such decisions can affect a restaurant's reputation over the long run as it tries to impress a fickle public. Every tiny aspect of a meal is planned to make the best possible impression.
Flick was the team leader for the dessert portion of the event and she watched closely as senior Katy Peterson, who had prepared the filling for the tart, sprinkled pistachio crumbles on the pastry. Everything was just about perfect.
It was just one course on a three-course menu that students were presenting for a Bastille Day-themed celebration. The first offering consisted of the cold soup, vichyssoise, to be served with a cheese pastry. The second course was a lamb chop served over ratatouille. The lemon pastry with the blueberry compote followed and included some truffles to top off the meal.
The students were attending the 10-week summer session offered by the university and their final class was the event. Bulls Bistro was a culmination of summer lessons learned.
On July 12, the students arrived at the culinary innovation lab at 9 a.m. to begin preparations. Each student had a job, whether it was cooking the lamb or the baking the cheese pastry. Some students managed the front of the restaurant, organizing the seating and the eventual serving of the guests. Other students ironed napkins and polished silverware.
Ten minutes after the first guests had arrived, students began to bring out plates, only after their classmates had used gloved hands to plate the specialities.
“I think that people who come in here know we’re just students so they cut us some slack when it comes to having the food prepared and plated perfectly,” said Linda Rodriguez, a senior and a class member who was serving.
Although the rush of servers looked a bit chaotic at times, every route had a purpose. The students had to hurry to get all the specialties to the customers at just the right temperature. Eventually, the guests were dining and the students had a moment to gather their thoughts.
They would compliment each other on a first course well done and then began to discuss the next course. A few leaders would point everyone in the right direction if they got a bit off course.
USF Culinary Services Manager Garry Colpitts said Flick, who said she isn't quite sure if she wants to do culinary work for the rest of her career, has a natural talent in the kitchen and would do well in the industry. In between plating and preparing desserts at Bulls Bistro, Flick talked about her passion for the restaurant business.
“I love to cook because I like to make people happy,” she said.