Oct 2, 2014

Public Invited to Dine at Student-Run Restaurants at FVCC

FVCC student Taylor Baer prepares dough

A unique new course at Flathead Valley Community College is giving students of The Culinary Institute of Montana an opportunity to plan, open and operate their own restaurants. This fall, two groups of second-year culinary arts students will take turns operating their restaurants for three weeks inside the instructional kitchen in the lower level of the Arts and Technology Building on campus. The restaurants will be open to the public for lunch.


Created by FVCC Executive Chef Howard Karp, the new capstone and final course in the Professional Culinary Arts Series was designed to provide a practical approach to planning, organizing and managing a restaurant.  Students spent the first five weeks of the course developing their initial concept for a restaurant and developing a full business plan, which was presented to and critiqued by community mentors. At week six of the program, students will open their restaurants, taking responsibility for preparation, serving and presentation of the student-developed menu to paying guests.


Culinary student Jonathon Hartig calls the learning experience “invaluable.”


“The ability to conceptualize, then execute the opening of a restaurant is a very special opportunity,” said Hartig. “It will guide me throughout my professional career.”


FVCC Entrepreneurship Coordinator Jill Seigmund taught the first five weeks of the course along with a team of business experts who helped students put together specific pieces of their business plans. She said this unique experience has given students a taste of what it’s like to own and operate a business without requiring them to go into debt.

: FVCC students Zoe Gaiser, Alexander Hanson, Rebecca Tomas, Jonathon Hartig and Caille Moles discuss flavors of a dish they prepared


“Our culinary students now know the critical things they need to consider before borrowing money to open a restaurant,” said Seigmund. “Should they decide to go into business for themselves, they are better prepared to make informed business decisions that will improve their chances of succeeding in this unforgiving industry.”


Steve Clawson, retired district president for Wells Fargo, served as a mentor, observing and critiquing the students’ business plans before the restaurant doors were opened for business. Clawson said he was impressed with the high quality of work the students were able to produce in a short time.


“I’ve looked at a lot of business plans throughout my career, and these students did a great job,” said Clawson. “I was able to provide some value in their financial plans and in the area of merchant services, and I found that the group was very engaged and interested in learning. Overall, I think this is a really exciting program for these students.”


Once both restaurants are closed, students will evaluate the performance of their restaurants, rework their business plans to incorporate any necessary changes and present their revised plans to the mentor panel for feedback. Other mentors included Donna Lawson, owner of The Jug Tree in Bigfork, and community member Suzy Williams, who provided the perspective of a well-cultured paying customer.

FVCC students Caille Moles and Zoe Gaiser prepare a dish


The first restaurant, called “The Experience,” will be open for lunch Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. October 7 through October 23. The restaurant concept, created and produced entirely by the students, will provide patrons the opportunity to observe students in action as they show off their skills preparing and serving dishes prepared with the freshest ingredients available in the Flathead Valley. The menu will feature classic lunch options with an upscale flair including a chicken pesto panini, fish tacos, grilled cheese shooters and chicken scallopini.


The second restaurant, “Ambrosia – Mediterranean Cuisine,” will be open for lunch Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. November 4 through November 20. Ambrosia, which represents “Food of the Gods” in Greek mythology, will offer customers a variety of unique Mediterranean dishes not frequently seen in the Flathead Valley and prepared with fresh local ingredients. The healthy Greek-inspired menu will feature fresh lunch options including tangy Greek chicken, broiled tilapia gyros, minted lamb burgers and baklava.


For more information about The Culinary Institute of Montana at FVCC or about the student-run restaurants, visit