Students run Cafe le Reve to learn real life work skills

Maryville High School students staff Cafe le Reve

(WBIR-Maryville) When you sit down to a meal at a restaurant with real linen table cloths, you expect a delicious meal as well as a certain level of service.

A certain cafe offers just that, and it is staffed by students at Maryville High School.

The students don't just prepare lunch. They are also preparing for life in the workforce.

"We want them to learn to go to a job, be on time, work as a team, make decisions and come out on top when they go apply for a job," Sandra Elder said.

The Maryville High School teacher is the visionary behind is Cafe le Reve, which means dream in French.

"It was my dream to get students out of the classroom. I am so fortunate to have a school system that lets teachers dream," she said.

Sandra Elder started the dream about 13 years ago. Donna Burns is another teacher who also helps in the kitchen. The rest of the workers are Maryville High School students earning class credit in this cafe next to the school.

"First and second is food prep. And then after that block third block does the serving. And fourth block comes in and cleans up and washes tablecloths and re-sets for the next day," she explained.

The work flow means that when the prep work is finished, the next shift arrives. That is third shift, the job they all aspire to.

"They're kind of the big guys of the cafe. They get to wear chef jackets and meet the public and they feel pretty special," she said.

Cady Case is a Maryville High School Student who has earned a spot on that third shift.

"I like working third block because I like a lot of interaction with people," she said.

Cady Case says the whole student staff splits the tips at the end of the week.

Guests arrive at 11:45 prompt and expect quick service. Some are regulars. One group dines at the cafe once a week.

"Every Tuesday for the last four or five years. It's well worth it," a diner said.

It's worth it to the West Foundation and the Blackberry Farm Foundation to donate to Cafe le Reve. Their support means students have a complete kitchen and even use ipads for orders and as a cash register.

Sandra Elder said, "I'm probably one of the toughest managers they'll ever have. I want them to be ready for whatever is thrown at them. And how to take a breath and go, ok, I'll go on with my job."

As for Cady, she's learned more than restaurant skills during the hands on class.

"A lot of patience,a lot of patience. And fast pace. It's very fast paced," she said.

Sandra Elder said, "Sometimes I think our cafe is as much a community service as much as it is a service for our students because I just think it makes the community see our students at Maryville High School in a whole different setting."

That setting is Cafe le Reve.

As for the food, Sandra Elder said... "It's delicious."

The cafe will re-open after the school holiday break.


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