City College culinary program faces deep cuts

April 30, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
What some call a vital part of the culinary academy at the City College of San Francisco is facing devastating budget cuts. Monday, a plea for help went out, just as one restaurant owner stepped in with a major act of generosity.

In a crowded kitchen, cooks dressed in all white paint the butter onto butter croissants and cut strawberries into impossibly thin slices. Butchers ready prime cuts of beef as sauces are made from scratch. People rave about it on Yelp. But you don't need reservations to eat there; you just need to go to the cafeteria at the City College of San Francisco.

Every one of the cooks is a student in what may be the country's oldest two-year culinary arts program. But now, like the rest of City College, it's facing deep cuts, to its budget. And just like the lean, juicy steaks they cook, there's no fat left to trim.

"We are going to, being asked to cut the cafeteria budget by $250,000," Dean David Dore said.

Dore told students, without other funding, the cafeteria could be forced to close.

"By closing the cafeteria we really then take away a huge piece of what makes the program so special and unique," Dore said.

People in the culinary program say the student cafeteria is a vital part of the recipe for success. Instead of cutting up 100 carrots, try cutting up 1,000. The sheer volume of food students prepare there prepares them for the real world.

"Creating this kind of full environment, like we work in a restaurant," culinary arts student Rebecca Cote said.

Cote also works at John's Grill -- a restaurant with a long history of hiring from City College. Now, the owner is giving back.

"John's Grill is donating $60,000," owner John Konstin said.

Konstin wasn't alone. Tom Sweeney, also a city college graduate, is the doorman from the Sir Francis Drake. He's donating $3,500.

"Without that opportunity, I would have never been working at a major hotel," Sweeney said.

In fact, nearly every local hotel and restaurant has City College alumni among its ranks.

Now, Konstin hopes the owners will follow his example.

"To all donate, because we all need this program," Konstin said.


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