SHERIDAN — A familiar scenario: it’s Friday night and you are trying to decide where to go for dinner.
A less familiar solution: head down to the high school for dinner in the cafeteria.
Family and Consumer Science students at Tongue River High School are hoping to put that plan on the top of your list as two culinary classes open the school doors to the public for two full-service “restaurants.” Bistro Under the Bighorns is open for dinner once a month and The Prancing Pony is open for lunch once a week.
The Prancing Pony has been serving lunch in the halls of the culinary wing once a week for the past 18 years, under various names.
FCS instructor Pat Mischke said the students usually feed around 30 people in the restaurant that is unique every year and completely student designed.
Each year the new class of cooks chooses a name for the restaurant and paints the walls of the hall according to the corresponding theme.
This year’s Prancing Pony name was inspired by “The Hobbit” and the walls are covered with colorful dragons and piles of gold.
Each week the students must plan the menu and the necessary grocery order complete with a cost analysis of their selections to ensure they stay within budget.
Lunchtime diners receive a complete meal for only $6 and if any profit is made after costs, that money goes back into the program.
One student restaurateur Cheyloh Bluemel said she was introduced to the program her freshmen year through a half-semester class in which the other half was spent studying clothing.
Bluemel enjoyed the culinary portion of the course so much she returned to try her hand at the full course.
She said her favorite part about the class is the teamwork the students build together.
“It takes a lot more teamwork than I thought it would,” she said, “and I’ve grown closer to my school mates throughout it.”
Upon successful completion of the course, the students are Serve Safe certified which means they can get jobs in restaurants outside of school, which Bluemel said will give her a step-up when looking for summer jobs.
The Prancing Pony is open every Wednesday at 12:35 p.m.
The second class of culinary artists operating out of the school will also complete the Serve Safe certification while serving up delicious dishes at the Bistro Under the Bighorns.
The Bistro opens in the heavily windowed cafeteria at TRHS for a gourmet dinner with a view that is planned, cooked and served by the students.
The students take turns writing the menu of the month in groups of three before heading to the kitchen and decorating the cafeteria with table clothes and lamps.
Kendall Walters is in his second year at the Bistro and says he enjoys watching the community appreciate his cooking.
“We like having people come and see what we’re capable of, taste our food and enjoy our company,” said Walters.
There are only two more chances to visit The Bistro Under the Bighorns this school year and reservations will be required.
The Bistro will open next on April 24 and the menu will include raspberry vinaigrette salad, ranch cucumber bread with lemon pepper, apple and horseradish glazed salmon, loaded baked potato, garlic French bread and chocolate mousse cake, all for $12.
Reservations for April 24 or May 15 may be made by calling Mischke at 655-2236 or by email at email@example.com.
“They love being able to do the restaurants,” Mischke said. “They even have t-shirts they wear to school the day the restaurant is open.”
Both students agreed that while the highlight of the week is when the rare occasion get to eat their own cooking, the hardest part of the class is the bookwork.
The coursework teaches them food service techniques, rules, safety precautions and cooking guidelines.
“If it wasn’t for Miss Mischke there’s no way I would still be in foods,” said Bluemel. “There is a lot of stuff you have to know and it can be very tedious, especially when you want to just cook and eat all the time, but she makes it fun to get through all that stuff.”
Both classes earn college credit for their participation.