CCCOE’s Strawberry Corner provides an excellent training ground for future restaurant workers

CCCOE’s Strawberry Corner provides an excellent training ground for future restaurant workers
Posted on 03/11/2019

CONCORD, Calif., March 8, 2019—Recently, on a chilly, rainy winter’s morning, there was no better place to warm up and fill up than the long-standing Strawberry Corner, located on the Contra Costa County Office of Education’s (CCCOE) Marchus School (special education) campus, in Concord. On this day, the little training classroom was transformed into a café with meticulously set tables and servers wearing white shirts and black ties. The pop-up café was bustling because it was in the middle of its annual Dine-In Service at Strawberry Corner program.

The CCCOE’s Strawberry Corner is a restaurant occupation class training program (CTE/ROP), opened for students with special needs, ages 18-22, who are learning community transitional skills to better assimilate in the general public. Instructor Laurel Patterson reports, “Our program is open to students who need a little extra help, and come from nine school districts in Contra Costa County. The students are with us for a half of the day, and usually spend the second half of the day with independent-living skills programs. Here at Strawberry Corner, we teach basic restaurant skill, including cooking, serving, busing, cashiering, and dishwashing. In addition, we teach job skills, including how to find employment and how to fill out a job application.”  Patterson has directed the Strawberry Corner program for 18 years, and in total, has worked for the CCCOE for 27 years.

Annually, during early March, it is tradition for the students test some of the skills they have been learning, by coming out behind the kitchen and counter and provided full table service. The waiters and waitresses were professionally dressed in black slacks, white shirts with ties, and aprons. On this particular day, the eight tables were full. The breakfast guests were primarily administration employees of the CCCOE.

Superintendent of Schools Lynn Mackey said, “The Dine-In Service program is an excellent opportunity for our students to obtain real-life experience, dress for success, and receive an excellent simulation of what it would be like to work in a real restaurant setting. Their instructor, Laurel Patterson, does an excellent job of preparing the students to be professional restaurant workers.” 

For two straight mornings, the café’s door would open at 9:00 a.m. sharp, and an eager wait staff would individually greet a dining party, seat them, and take their beverage and breakfast orders. On this particular day, the pancakes and French Toast especially popular. The servers would then deliver the beverages and meals, take away the empty plates, followed by adding and presenting each patron with their check.

Though the constant light rain continued, every customer walked out of Strawberry Corner filled with a delicious breakfast and very impressed with their service. While at the same time, their servers were proud of the job they did with this excellent life-skills opportunity. And, the non-required tips they earned were pretty cool, too.

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