A Place to Eat and Learn
by Leon Joshua Delos Reyes
It is 6:00pm on a Monday afternoon in November at City Tech. Wearing a striped button down shirt and black corduroy pants, I am heading to a Holiday Dinner event which takes place at the Janet Lefler Dining Room. This isn’t my first time dining in this place so I didn’t really expect something different.
The Janet Lefler Dining Room, located in the second floor on the Namm Building, is where students learn proper dining room etiquette. However, according to Professor Goodlad of the Hospitality Department she says, “ The dining room was renovated in 2011 but the program existed since City Tech was built.” But this isn’t just a typical classroom; students learn by running the operation. This style of learning is helpful to students who are pursing a career in the hospitality industry because they’re getting the real life restaurant management experience. In detail according to City Tech, “Student rotation through dining room service positions with emphasis on responsibilities of planning, producing and evaluating service” (NYCCT, “Dining Room Operation”.) In addition this dining room takes reservations and can hold special events as well. According to Mary Frost, students from PS 282 dined in the Janet Lefler Dining Room as a part of Spoons Across America program (Frost, “Brooklyn Students Get Their First Taste of Fine Dining”.)
As I got in front of the dining room, I’m greeted by the hosts of the dinner. “The dining room will open in 15 minutes”, said one of the hosts, I go to the coat hanging room. Expecting to see one student to be in the room, it was dim and empty. But, there’s a lot of coats hanged, so I hang my coat myself. After hanging my coat, I sat down on one of the black couches to wait for 15 minutes to pass by. Every minute or two, more guests arrive and everyone is dressed professionally. This dining room has a dress code: everyone must wear business casual attire. Finally, a student opens the door and lets us inside the room. I’m greeted by the friendly servers and professors who are giving us the “signature hospitality smile”. The lighting is very comforting and they are playing oldies music (some were by Fleetwood Mac). The servers are professionally dressed: females have their hair pulled back, white shirt, and black pants. While men are wearing white shirt and black pants. However, not one server seat us in our tables so we have to choose where we can sit instead. As usual, there’s eight seats for each table.
As I sat down on my seat, it surprises me that the appetizers are already served. It’s a garbanzo bean salad with a jam like dressing (I forgot what it was) and mini savory pancakes topped with a salad to share. The table setup is Christmas themed: huge white flowers, red pebbles, and red Christmas balls. As usual, there are forks, spoons, and knives and three plates of butter to share. A friendly server then comes to our table to introduce each dish and reminds us that she will take our orders when we’re ready. Tasting the garbanzo salad, I found it spicy, not hot spicy but full of explosive flavors like cumin. I didn’t taste the savory pancakes because non of my colleagues tasted it.
After a few minutes another server comes to our table to serve bread and gives us two choices, either sweet bread or wheat bread (I can’t remember). These breads are made by students too, according to the server. I chose the sweet bread and it was quiet tasty. The server came back and takes our orders for entree. There are three entree selections: duck legs, rack of lamb, or a salad. The server recommends me to order the duck so I ordered that. The server then told us that the theme for today is Middle Eastern style. This dining room has different themes, according to Professor Goodlad, “The cuisine depends on the classes: International or Contemporary classes, but most are based on French traditions.”(Goodlad, 2015)
Waiting for my entree, I looked at the surroundings and I noticed that the walls were surrounded by pictures of eggs. Another server came back to refill our water and took our finished appetizer plates. I felt like the students were highly trained and take their classes seriously. A server then places entree forks and knives, then a minute or two later they served our entrees. The moment she places the food in front of me, the smell of strong spices entered my nostrils and it was amazing. Taking a bite of this piece of duck, I was very amazed by its delicious taste and balanced flavors. However I didn’t finish my food because I need to save some space for desserts. The server takes my entree plate away and then cleans the table. Another server comes to our table with a plate full of candy looking things. The server then tells us that these are palette cleansers, these are candied spices.
Now for desserts! The dessert choices were cheese dumplings, rice pudding, and some dish I didn’t know about. However, they didn’t give us a choice, so I hoped I’m getting a good dessert. The server asked if I want coffee or tea so I chose coffee. Then I asked the server what kind of coffee is it, she says, the coffee is french press. A minute or two later, the server came out and served me a cheese dumpling. It looked like mini mozzarella balls in a soup, but it surprised me when I took a small bite of it. It tasted like custard but more spongy. The sauce tasted like sweet milk and it was delicious. It matches perfectly with french pressed coffee because the dessert reduces the amount of coffee’s bitterness.
After the dinner came to an end, the culinary professor comes out with students to say thank you. I realized that this dining room isn’t just a classroom but a full service restaurant. I was impressed by the service and its very comparable to other high end restaurants. I would definitely dine in here, if I had another chance to do so.
Goodlad, Karen. Personal Interview. 3 December 2015
Frost, Mary. “Brooklyn Students Get Their First Taste of Fine Dining.” Brooklyn Daily Eagle. 1 Nov. 2006. Web. 12 Dec. 2015.
NYCCT. “Dining Room Operation.” Course Outlines. New York City College of Technology. Web. 12 Dec. 2015.