The café serves up “food for thought” as a lab for students in the School of Human Ecology’s quantity food production course by providing them with the real-world experience of selecting, preparing and serving large meals to actual paying customers in a restaurant-type setting on campus.
When students and faculty wrapped up the café’s seventh successful season last fall, however, they knew it was in need of renovation.
“Not only was our décor dated, but we also wanted to improve the dining room’s overall layout and efficiency,” said Sue Bailey, director of human ecology.
Possibly the most noticeable feature of the renovation was the removal of a prominent beverage station from the dining room to the kitchen, but other improvements — many of which were designed by a HEC housing and design student — included new floor covering, new wall and ‘window’ designs and new curtains made by Bailey herself.
The project cost approximately $32,000, all but $3,000 of which was raised from private donors to the School of Human Ecology — including more than $14,000 from an individual, anonymous donor.
“At a special meal last November we asked patrons to support the renovation by donating whatever amount they could give — and from there, we’ve been able to complete a successful renovation project,” said Melinda Anderson, HEC assistant professor who teaches TTU’s quantity food production course.
That wouldn’t have been the case, though, without the help of TTU’s facilities department, under the leadership of Don Shockley, which supported the effort by completing as much of the renovation work as possible, said Bailey.
“The facilities staff did all of the kitchen renovations and some of the improvements in the dining area,” she said. “Without that department’s support — along with the donations from students, faculty, staff, alumni and café patrons — we wouldn’t have been able to do this,” she said.
The Friday Café began as the dream of former HEC director Jean Porter, and prior to its creation, the quantity food production lab was in the university’s food services department, where it was more difficult for HEC faculty to monitor student progress and determine that each one received training on all levels of food service production.
When space was allocated for the School of Human Ecology’s own kitchen and dining room, the café lab first got off the ground with significant equipment contributions from Shoney’s and Cracker Barrel companies.
“No other university in Tennessee — to my knowledge — has a program like the Friday Café. It’s unique to TTU’s School of Human Ecology, and we’ve been fortunate over the years to receive the level of support we’ve had,” Anderson said.
As the Friday Café’s name suggests, meals are served every Friday of the fall semester, and the cost per person is $6. While the café is open to anyone — from both campus and community — reservations are required because seating is limited.
“Even after the renovation, our dining room’s seating capacity remains at 50 — but hopefully it will now be a roomier, more comfortable 50,” Anderson said.
Another change for customer convenience this season is that the café is now offering two different seating times — at 11:15 a.m. or 12:05 p.m. — instead of just one.
“Patrons may choose either seating time. We just ask that they come to whichever one they select at the time they make reservations,” Anderson said.
Items on the Sept. 29 menu include oven fried chicken, smashed potatoes, green beans almandine, fruit salad, whole wheat rolls and frosted pumpkin cake.
Other entrees that will be featured this fall include barbeque pork chops, vegetable beef lasagna, baked chicken with basil cream sauce, onion Salisbury steak, crispy coconut chicken dippers, beef tips in mushroom sauce, roasted pork tenderloin, Mexican enchiladas and rosemary chicken.
All reservations should be made by 4 p.m. on the Wednesday prior to the Friday meal.
For more information and to make reservations, call 931/372-3157.