By Jandean Deocampo
In the past two weeks, the Pierre Coste Room at Ocean campus, a student-operated fine dining restaurant, has heard Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Air” drifting from its grand piano over delicately-crafted napkins and a solo classical guitarist swooning restaurant patrons.
It’s a hint of posh that is otherwise unseen at one of City College’s nine campuses.
This relationship between the music and culinary departments represents both a new strategy to increase patronage at the restaurant and tells of an unlikely collaboration between disparate school departments.
Madeline Mueller, music department chair, was the lone pianist for the aptly titled Bach for Brunch Nov. 2. She is part of a weekly series of musicians, with scheduled performances by faculty and some students of the music department for the Pierre Coste Room every Friday. The performances are part of the wide array of things the Room does to increase dining patronage.
“It’s been lovely,” Mueller said about the reception of the music.
Another Friday performance featured Larry Ferrara, a solo classical guitarist who played music from various composers and guitarists, such as Estudio Brillante, in front of his colleagues in the music department.
“The incentive to play here is to be part of the music department tradition,” Ferrara said. “This is the second year. This is going to be the fourth time I’ve performed here. I like to contribute to the overall artistic feel here at City College.”
The Pierre Coste Room is run by students of the Culinary Art and Hospitality Program. Their menu states their mission is to create “wonderful dining” for their guests in the form of top quality food preparation, great service and an atmosphere that rivals fine dining restaurants throughout the Bay Area.
Diners are treated to a menu of soups, salads and various entrees. Servers in ties and aprons cater to guests seated at tables, pouring drinks, wheeling dessert carts and even cooking dishes tableside when ordered, displaying a professionalism and dedication to service outside of the kitchen.
The department, amid the dwindling budget at City College, is doing well financially.
“We have full enrollment,” said Christopher Stellman, instructor of the restaurant operations class, which works the cafeteria, Cafe Mediterranean and the Pierre Coste Room. “We have very good retention and we have very good job placement. As far as the college is concerned, I think we are meeting our educational goals.”
Stellman, who owned a critically-acclaimed restaurant called Acorn for two-and-a-half years, also touts 40 years of restaurant management experience. He spends opening hours making sure all of his students are performing their parts well, and oversees a student-led critique of their actions every day at the restaurant’s closing time, helping to polish off any inconsistencies in and out of the kitchen.
The Pierre Coste Room is essentially self-sufficient, with students taking turns in the different roles of management, culinary and service sections of the restaurant. The money collected in the restaurant, along with any tips, goes directly into the college’s general fund, which pays for all the materials and instruction in the class and all parts of the department.
“The atmosphere of the restaurant, the whole restaurant experience, is like a mosaic and it’s made of all kinds of little pieces that come together,” Stellman said. “It’s a whole group of things that have to come together to make that nice experience. To isolate it is a little hard to do.”
“The Pierre Coste Room, the cafeteria and the Cafe are part of the same till,” Casey J. Kimmel, a student in the class, said. “They’re just three different classrooms. Students learn different skills.”
To some students, Pierre Coste is a unique experience, with special insight into the world of fine dining.
“There’s always something to do,” student Jasmine Palencia said. “I like the fact that we get put in here because it gives us a view of how a restaurant runs like.”
The Pierre Coste Room is open from 11:15 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Monday through Friday, with last seating at 12:30 p.m.
Follow Deocampo on Twitter: @bananaisafruit