It’s not your average restaurant. The Mission Bistro is only open for three hours a week and a few weeks out of the year, but what it creates is invaluable.
“[The students] design the menu; they write the order list that they have to have preferably a week and a function ahead of [time]. They write job descriptions for the other students,” said Scott Brunson, a faculty member in Mission College’s Hospitality Management Program.
Since 1985, students in the Mission College Hospitality Management Program have operated the Mission Bistro kitchen.
“In the fall, it’s quantity foods preparation, which is our cafeteria style dish up,” said Brunson, who is running this fall’s Quantity Foods Prep course. “In the springtime, we do restaurant operations, which is full-service restaurant style. We have wait staff and food’s cooked to order instead of made ahead. We drop bills and they pay checks at the tables like a restaurant.”
In both classes, students rotate through job positions like dishwasher, cashier and chef. The head of the entire operation is the restaurant manager, who does everything from creating the menu to ordering the food to running the staff. The job isn’t for the faint of heart.
“They’re totally freaked out,” said Brunson. “We’re there to help support them, but we try to allow them do all the stuff. It’s a lot of pressure. I’ve had even really experienced cooks who have worked in the industry for a while come in on their day and their ulcers are acting up, they’re nervous, they’re worried about things going wrong.”
While the stress is immense, Brunson says the experience is invaluable.
“A lot of employers find that our students are better prepared than the students that graduated from [private schools where] they just focus on hands on cooking skills and they didn’t really serve the public or do any management type stuff,” said Brunson.
“Our students manage functions,” continued Brunson. “Even in our basic food prep, they have to manage a lab, grade the other students, write the order list and supervise clean up. We get them hands on management skills so when they go out, they’ve seen stuff; they’ve experienced the stress. They’re a lot better prepared than even California Culinary Academy, that’s my alma mater.”
The Quantity Foods Prep and Restaurant Operations classes are among the final two classes a student takes before they graduate from Mission College’s Hospitality Management Program.
Former students have gone on to a variety of jobs from opening their own restaurants to working at local hotels and corporate cafeterias like Google, Apple and Facebook.
The Mission Bistro is open to the public. It serves on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Operating days vary, but the Mission Bistro is usually open during the school semester.
The restaurant and cafeteria always offer a vegetarian option, but Brunson doesn’t require students to deal with other dietary restrictions such as vegan and gluten-free.
“We’re aware of that and we encourage them to do things that will be acceptable for those people, but I don’t mandate that they have a gluten-free item or a vegan item,” said Brunson. “We do have to have a vegetarian for sure. That’s really high demand.”
Prices vary, but usually don’t go over $18. Recently, the Mission Bistro served Osso Bucco and charged $14 for the meal, which included a soup or salad of the day, a mocktail, bread and dessert.
Brunson says since the menu changes every meal, it’s good to check online before you arrive.
Visit www.missioncollege.edu and search “Mission Bistro” to find the upcoming menu and a free parking pass that you can print. The Mission Bistro is located at 3000 Mission College Blvd. in Santa Clara. It’s at the end of Parking Lot C.