A lot has changed in the past year at the Buckeye Room.
The restaurant, run by culinary students at the Lorain County JVS, was dismantled and rebuilt this summer and fall.
There’s more leg room now, brighter lighting, wood accents and soft pastels on the walls along with art by digital media students. Gone are a mirrored wall and antiquated chandelier that previously dominated the room.
While the square-footage hasn’t changed much — there are still about 50 seats — the entrance-way has been rebuilt to make the best of the space available, and to display trophies won by young culinary artists.
Best of all, broad windows give diners a clear view into the kitchen, where white-uniformed chefs-in-training busy themselves over roast pork loin, beef short rib, and New York-style cheesecake.
It’s a sweeping change from the room’s original 1971 design.
It was our pleasure to be treated to lunch Wednesday at the restaurant to see the updates and sample the fare, which merits a weeks-long waiting list.
Lauren Bascone of Amherst was one of 10 seniors hard at work. She served our table and happily answered questions.
“Pretty much everything is made from scratch,” she said, running down the list from bacon burgers to salad dressing to rolls. Bascone, who carries a 4.0 GPA, said meeting customers is her favorite part of the job, though she regularly rotates through each of the kitchen stations to learn how to handle everything from seafood to dough.
Madeline Marinelli of Wellington also stopped by our table to chat, describing how chef Alyssa Rose prepares students as juniors to work in the Buckeye Room as seniors.
“I love preparing everything,” she said. “I love making the desserts. There’s so many different things you can do.”
Marinelli plans to attend the University of Akron and study to become a nutritionist or dietitian.
Student Abbie Miller said the JVS culinary program turned her life around. She was failing as a student at Wellington High School but now gets straight A’s and is involved in the National Honor Society.
Miller got involved in the culinary academy because she “always liked cooking,” and now plans to attend the University of Northwestern Ohio to study business administration. “I think it’d be cool to be the boss,” she said, weighing the possibility of someday owning a restaurant.
All three students told us they are ecstatic with recent changes to the Buckeye Room.
Students had a hand in deciding how the restaurant would look and decided on a modern approach, said JVS deputy superintendent Jerry Pavlik: “The chefs really wanted to have a fine dining experience.”
Other highlights he pointed out: a video projector for conferences, televisions glowing with a slideshow of behind-the-scenes work at the Buckeye Room, LED lighting, and state-of-the-art kitchen equipment.
Pavlik said another update is being planned. Soon he wants tablet computers (point-of-sale devices) with which diners can send their orders straight to the kitchen, call a server, or pay their bills.
The goal, said head chef Timothy Michitsch, is to prepare students to step into jobs in commercial restaurants. Roughly 75 to 80 percent of his graduates go into the culinary field.
Upon graduation, his wards normally have one year of college credits that transfer to Lorain County Community College, which means they can earn an associate’s degree just one year out of the JVS.
Michitsch also has a full job board hanging in the kitchen for students to see what is available. “You don’t graduate and leave the JVS empty-handed. We continue to help you and offer jobs,” he said. “It’s my goal to get them all placed in jobs.”
Jason Hawk and Valerie Urbanik can be reached at 440-775-1611, firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com, and @EditorHawk and @ValUrbanik on Twitter.
Photos by Jason Hawk and Valerie Urbanik | Civitas Media Lauren Bascone serves reporter Valerie Urbanik at the updated Buckeye Room at the Lorain County JVS. She chose a career-technical education over traditional high school classes “for a change of pace.”