Salish Sea Ecotourism and Hospitality student Julia Livingston, 17, left, dices basil while Trinity Williams, 18, creates garlic bread twists at the Port Angeles School District’s commercial kitchen classroom. (KEITH THORPE/PENINSULA DAILY NEWS)<address><em></em></address>

Salish Sea Ecotourism and Hospitality student Julia Livingston, 17, left, dices basil while Trinity Williams, 18, creates garlic bread twists at the Port Angeles School District’s commercial kitchen classroom. (KEITH THORPE/PENINSULA DAILY NEWS)

Hospitality program training young chefs

Student-run cafe to open early next year

PORT ANGELES — Lincoln High School junior Azrael Harvey enjoys making Japanese-inspired dishes, like sushi, ramen, fried rice and dango (a kind of dumpling). His goal after graduation is to attend culinary school and then open his own restaurant.

Until then, he is perfecting his knife skills and learning about time and temperature control at the school’s new Salish Sea Ecotourism and Hospitality Program (SSEAH), which plans to open a public Wildcat Cafe next year.

“It’s more a professional kitchen environment than at home,” Harvey said. “And there’s a lot more going on.”

SSEAH is the latest addition to Port Angeles School District’s Career and Technical Education programs. CTE — what used to be called vocational education — blends academic study with hands-on learning to help students gain occupational and technical skills that will prepare them for the workplace or college.

Based in the commercial kitchen of the former North Olympic Peninsula Skills Center located in the district’s administration building at 905 W. Ninth St., SSEAH offers students an opportunity to learn about the many different elements of the hospitality industry: business, marketing, food and beverage, merchandising, customer service and management.

While located next to Lincoln, the program is open to all district 10th- to 12th-graders.

“We want to expose them to every facet and have them find the one that interests them the most,” said Lincoln Principal Mace Gratz.

Gratz said he and Angela Roszatycki Tamas, who leads the SSEAH program, approached the district early last year about developing a CTE pathway program at Lincoln like those at Port Angeles High School.

“We wanted our students to walk out of Lincoln with some experience by trying out different pieces of the industry,” Gratz said. “Our vision is they will be able to get a job in a restaurant and continue with a post-secondary program or start a business within 10 years.”

Tamas, whose family owned and operated Granny’s Cafe and the adjoining Indian Valley Motel west of Port Angeles from 1999 to 2018, said having a fully outfitted commercial kitchen already in place made the program possible. Constructing a comparable facility would have been cost-prohibitive, she said.

“This might be the nicest kitchen they’ll ever work in,” she said. “It needed some minor repairs but it is such a gift.”

The 1,400-square-foot space has two gas grills, proofing and convection ovens, a walk-in freezers and refrigerators, 12 KitchenAid mixers, commercial-grade sinks and a dishwasher, as well as tableware and dinnerware.

Wildcat Cafe

One of the few food prep items the program has had to purchase is an espresso machine for the Wildcat Cafe, an eatery that — if all goes according to plan — will open in January in the former skills dining room.

The cafe will start by selling coffee, espresso and items from Pastry Cat — the student’s bakery. The menu eventually will expand to offering soup, sandwiches and grab-and-go meals. Students are tasked with managing all aspects of food service operations: menu development, baking, cooking, serving, ordering supplies, merchandising, budgeting, making shift schedules and monitoring inventory.

Students have been in charge of the entire design of the cafe, from creating its logo to choosing its modern industrial theme. They ripped out the dining room’s old carpeting and replaced the mismatched tables and chairs with new ones paid for with a grant.

Gratz said the program would be strategic with its pricing so that it would be profitable but not undercut local businesses.

“We’re thinking of having a student discount, but we want to be good neighbors,” Gratz said.

Proceeds from the cafe will go directly back into the program.

Tamas said that a critical component of the program was teaching students how to think like entrepreneurs and brainstorm about potential business opportunities.

Among the possibilities they discusses were creating products that could be carried by local merchants, like Pastry Cat baked goods or a signature Wildcat coffee blend that was roasted on site.

They also plan to take advantage of the school’s garden for supplying the cafe with produce.

“We have all these pieces,” Tamas said. “We want to be able to use them.”

Senior Trinity Williams said she absolutely loves being in the kitchen. Pastry Cat allows her to fulfill her passion for baking: focaccia, bread, rolls, muffins, cookies, garlic twists.

“I like that we’re a team. Everybody wants to be here and working together as a class is fun,” Williams said. “It gives me a valuable skill that I’m not able to get at another school.”

The cafe will be open only when school is in session, so during the summer students will be able to have jobs with local businesses that need help during the summer.

Helping students build skills in the hospitality industry will help short-staffed local businesses, Gratz said, by providing trained workers who have food handler permits and hands-on experience. When classes are not held in the summer, the hope is that students can find jobs in an area in which they have been trained.

After completing six SSEAH courses, taking a food safety training course and passing the Washington State Food Worker exam, students will earn a certificate of completion that will signal their qualifications to employers.

A CTE Advisory Committee comprised of local hospitality professionals Toga Hertzog, formerly of Toga’s Soup House; Neal Conklin owner of Bella Rosa; Allie Plute, human resources director at Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe & 7 Cedars Resort has been guiding the program. The Port Angeles Education Foundation has also been a supporter of the program, Tamas said.

Senior Maxwell Madrid said his mom was a good cook, but he hadn’t been able to do much cooking himself, so for the time being he was happy just helping other students, chopping vegetables and enjoying being part of the activity.

“There’s a lot of teamwork and community,” Madrid said. “No one is just standing around.”

CTE offers hands-on learning

PORT ANGELES — Career and technical education — once known as vocational education — combines academic instruction with the acquisition of occupational and technical skills.

Students on a CTE pathway to graduation receive hands-on learning that prepare them for specific jobs in the workforce. Among the CTE program areas students in the Port Angeles School District can choose from are agriculture education and science, business and marketing, family and consumer science, skilled technical sciences and STEM.

However, a student does not have to be enrolled in a CTE program to take advantage of such courses as accounting, engineering, marine biology, cybersecurity, nutrition and wellness, cabinetmaking and video game design. Many CTE courses can be taken for community college credit at no cost to students as well.

Shanna Coleman, the district’s CTE director, said Port Angeles had more and a greater variety of programs available to students than did many larger districts and that they were well supported.

“We want to make sure that we’re meeting all our kids where they’re at and giving them something that’s interesting to them,” Coleman said.

“We have an entire woodworking shop. We have an entire auto body and auto collision shop. We have welding. We just have such an incredible amount of opportunities for kids.”


Reporter Paula Hunt can be reached at