The tables are set, the stove top is fired up, the food is prepped, and the cooks are ready to serve another round of guests.
It’s just like any other kitchen. The chefs are racing around trying to make sure their meals — Cinco de Mayo-themed, in this case — are ready for the people about to walk through the doors.
But in this restaurant, the chefs are also high school students, and the kitchen is a classroom. Silverado High School is part of the nationwide ProStart program, which unites students interested in culinary arts with people in the food service industry.
Ann Taylor, a teacher at Silverado, 1650 Silver Hawk Ave., has been running the program for 15 years. It allows students from the various culinary classes to learn not only to cook a variety of cuisines but also how to run a restaurant — both the front and back of the house.
The Gallery, which is the name of the student-run restaurant, opens at 10:45 a.m. on selected Thursdays. Students must apply to be part of the program. Once accepted, they are in charge of developing menus and creating a variety of dishes each week. Then, on select Thursdays throughout the month, they take their classroom and turn it into a functioning restaurant.
Students rotate through different tasks each week, including chef, sous chef or server.
In order to help with the lessons, Taylor has brought in chefs from various Las Vegas Valley restaurants.
“They come in and teach the students how to properly use knives or learn proper technique on how to cut,” Taylor said.
The program has enlisted chefs such as Chris Bulen, executive chef at Andre’s at the Monte Carlo, who has worked with the students for three years.
“I come to the school every two weeks to help out,” he said.
Bulen, who works with celebrity chef Andre Rochat, said the students usually come to him with ideas for dishes.
“They ask me what ingredients would work well,” he said. “I’m pretty impressed with some of the ideas they come up with.”
He said no idea is unobtainable.
“We might have to switch things up if there is a time constraint,” he added.
Once students identify the recipes they want to cook, they get to work planning the Thursday afternoon specials.
Mostly teachers file into the six-table room, but people from the community — often family members of the students — also dine there. Taylor said guests need to make reservations ahead of time.
The Gallery runs on donations as opposed to charging people outright. For the Cinco de Mayo-inspired meal, students prepared enchiladas, refried beans, rice and a coconut rum flan with a hibiscus sauce. They even set up the room with decorations to match.
When the doors opened, teacher after teacher came in.
“Some teachers even get their food to go,” Bulen said.
Though the students spend the week preparing for the meal, when class starts at 10 a.m., it’s all hands on deck as they rush to finish the meals. They see between 20 and 30 people at each meal.
Taylor said more than 80 percent of the students have gone on to work in the culinary field after graduation.
Cole Minnick, a senior at Silverado, has been in the program for four years.
“I think the program is important,” he said, adding that ProStart not only taught him about cooking but also the importance of working with a group.
He hasn’t graduated from high school but has already started his career in culinary arts.
“I’m a pantry chef at McCormick & Schmick’s,” he said. “I’ve been there about five months. I think this program definitely helped me get that job.”
In addition to teaching students the ins and outs of the culinary world, Taylor has been having her students compete in national ProStart competitions. At the 2016 competition, the nine-student team was able to garner a few awards for a variety of dishes it prepared.
“The types of things these students are preparing are top-notch quality,” Taylor said. “You would never think it was a high schooler creating these dishes.”
For more information on ProStart, visit nraef.org/prostart.
To reach Henderson View reporter Michael Lyle, email email@example.com or call 702-387-5201. Find him on Twitter: @mjlyle.
If you go
Silverado High School’s student-run restaurant The Gallery is open at 10:45 a.m. on selected Thursdays. Donations are accepted in place of set prices for meals. Guests are asked to make reservations in advance. Call 702-799-5790.
For more information on the ProStart program, visit nraef.org/prostart.