Cafe Landry takes alternative approach to food business
Paul Creasy and his classmates put the finishing touches on a group of salads that Cafe Landry will sell during lunch hours.
The café, which opened last week, serves coffee, muffins and biscuits for breakfast and three different salads for lunch. All of the lunch items are $4, while most of the breakfast items are $1 a piece.
All meals are prepared and served by the students and their instructor Ed Bourgeois.
"Café Landry is a replica, or offshoot, of Café Reconcile in New Orleans," Bourgeois said. "That café begun to give recovering drug addicts and people that were released from parish prisons a way to work. The Superintendent, along with a couple of past principles, decided that this would be a good thing for these students."
Seven students take part in the café program and each of those students have been preparing for the café's opening since August. Thanks to a practice kitchen, Bourgeous has been able to teach these students the ins-and-outs of the food industry to get them prepared.
"They have had to listen to me lecture since August and I know they were tired of hearing my voice," Bourgeois said with a chuckle. "I'm not here to make chefs out of people, but we are giving them some basic food industry skills. We have a teaching classroom that was built for this and the concept has actually been around for a couple of years."
Not only do the students prepare the salads and bake muffins and biscuits, but they also learn knife usage and proper sanitation methods. The students also rotate during breakfast and lunch, so they get the chance to take part in each side of the food industry.
And while the café is still in its infant stage, there are already plans to expand the menu and teach the students even more about another important aspect of the food industry- the business side.
"We have just gotten started, but down the road the menu is going to increase and the business aspect of it will be shown to the students," Bourgeois said. "We've done business 101 in the classroom and we've talked about purchasing and profit and loss. They have not had a chance to implement that yet, but they will as the business grows."
Speaking of business, the café has had plenty of it during their opening week. With the built in clientelle of the Hahnville Courthouse, several parish workers, sheriffs and judges have made their way to the café for breakfast and lunch.
"The alternative program is a product of the judicial system and the educational system so everybody gets involved and these students have to be accountable to a lot of people," Bourgeois said. "We had one day where we completely ran out of everything and then the next day we didn't do quite as well. It's like any other business, it's up or down."
The money made from the café goes directly into the program. Bourgeois says that the St. Charles Parish School Board spent thousands of dollars to build a teaching kitchen, so he has to make sure that the café is run just like a business. Bourgeois has to submit daily receipts to the school secretary and those receipts have to match.
"We are not paying rent and we don't have any labor costs, but we started out in debt," Bourgeois said. "We are putting the money back into the program and we want to increase menu size because there is a big need for it. We are not to that step yet where we can have a breakfast buffet like Shoneys, but the intention is to reach that point."
Bourgeois says that the café is also looking at selling finger sandwich trays for the holidays and cookie gift baskets.
"The students will not only bake the cookies, but they will also do the basket arrangements," he said. "That's just some of the directions we are taking right now."
And while the outside appearance of the café is just that- a café, the heart of the program is the students.
"Because we are so close, this a service we can give back to the court system and the administrative offices because the kids are working with community services," Diane Powell said. "The kids, at the same time, are completing their community service hours and in addition they are learning skills, so it's really a good idea and has been very positive for everybody."
Two students in the program, Dylan Grayson and Paul Creasy, who Bourgeois says can attend college in the future based on their grades, agree with Powell.
"I like cooking with a whole bunch of my friends," Creasy said. "It's like a real business we've got here."
Grayson echoed those sentiments.
"Making the stuff is fun because it's real work," he said. "I didn't know so much could go into making a salad. I'm waiting on our menu to get bigger and better so we can start doing more."
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