Late August in Santa Rosa means that it's back to the books for high school and JC students, triple the traffic on Pacific and Mendocino avenues, and, most importantly, a new season for the SRJC Culinary Cafe and Bakery. One person, at least, is definitely excited. Speaking by phone on the way to her office, cafe manager and instructor Betsy Fischer gushes about the fall opening and the cafe's upcoming new location across from campus—set to open in 2011—before she explains the importance of education taking place in the real world."When you're out there in the work world, it's not just about cooking," she says. "There's a whole other business and service side to it, and we want to give our students experience in those areas so they're prepared."
The cafe first opened in January of 2003, and has continued to provide valuable background to budding chefs while piling on appreciative fans of the joint's low prices and delectable menu.
"When the students are working in the cafe, they're towards the end of their training," Fischer says. "During the 16 weeks they spend in the cafe, they become more responsible for coming up with recipes and that sort of thing."
The cafe and bakery is one place where even regulars can't order the same thing every week, which Fischer says keeps people coming back for more.
"We have a very large and loyal clientele, but every week the menu changes, so we don't necessarily have any one mainstay or popular item," she says. "But people usually order our desserts almost every time, which is rare for most lunch places."
Rare indeed. One might imagine that a steamed persimmon pudding with lemon rum sauce or a chocolate-orange nut tart would speed the inevitable 3pm post-lunch office slump, but the droolworthy dessert creations are worth the risk.
Fischer mentions that the two new additions to the rotating menu—thin-crust pizza and gourmet sandwiches—are already a hit. As a finishing thought, she says simply, "We don't cook from books, boxes or cans. It's all fresh all the time."
The SRJC Culinary Cafe and Bakery opens for the fall season on Wednesday, Aug. 26, at the corner of Seventh and B streets in Santa Rosa. Wednesday&–Friday, breakfast and lunch only. 707.576.0279.
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