Class focuses on management skills of restaurant

Allegre considered best restaurant in Muncie, according to head chef.

As she bustles between kitchens of the Allegre restaurant in her tall, white chef hat, Lois Altman oversees the students of the Quantity Food Production Class.

Chef, as she is referred to by her students, has taught the Allegre class for the 11 years it has been offered at Ball State.

Allegre is the student-operated restaurant located on the first floor of the Applied Technology Building. The restaurant focuses on American regional cuisine and teaches students the importance of restaurant management.

Tucked behind lockers in a corner of the building, many students are unaware of Allegre's presence at Ball State. Those majoring in dietetics, food service and hospitality, however, are all required to take the class and devote time to Allegre.

"We like to say we are the best restaurant in Muncie," Altman said. "There is a lot of pressure on the students to do well, and they respond well to it."

Students of the family and consumer sciences department's food and nutrition class meet each Monday and Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. to learn about running a restaurant. Although the students learn how to prepare and present meals, management is the main concentration.

The whole class must work as a team in order to put on the lunch. In one of the first classes, students are paired up and handcuffed to help them learn to work together.

"It teaches them not to be afraid to ask for help," Altman said. "It's about management, not just cooking. The students have to figure out who does what. They do everything."

Throughout the semester each student is given the opportunity to work in each of the restaurant's positions.

"One week a student might be a dishwasher and the next they may be the manager," Altman said. "It helps them get a feel for everything that goes on."

The manager for the week plans the details of the meal, from what is being served to what each person's job will include for the week, Altman said.

At the beginning of the semester students are given their job schedules. Students are then allowed to look over 20 possible themes for their meals. The only requirement for the menu is that it follow the meal's theme.

"My meal is the Hunter's Table, and that's one reason we chose to make rabbit," senior Anita Harris said. "It follows the hunting theme."

Once the menus are selected and scheduled, an e-mail is sent out to Ball State's faculty and staff. This notifies them of Allegre's openings on Wednesdays for lunch from noon to 2 p.m.

Students are also allowed to make reservations, but are rarely able to because of the popularity of Allegre among the faculty.

"The faculty knows when the menus are posted," Altman said. "Because they sometimes have easier access to computers they can make reservations sooner."

This semester's reservations were filled in four hours.

Additional positions at Allegre include a first and second cook and an assistant manager who poses as the maitre d'. There are also two chefs and two servers each week.

The class was unable to fill all 13 available positions for the semester, so an additional two servers had to be hired from outside of the class to help. The other three positions include a baker, a pantry (salad prep) and a dishwasher.


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