Crunching down a half an hour before meal time, a worried student in a rush received comfort and soft words of reassurance from chef Bill Barber in the Captain’s Table Restaurant’s kitchen.

Walking through the large, busy kitchen, student chefs anticipating the time the meals must be sent out focused on getting the food prepared.

The student chefs who were behind the scenes of the Captain’s Table getting ready for the theme of the week, Chinese cuisine, have completed an assortment of the required courses in the culinary program — this class being the highest level and last class in the program.

The Captain’s Table is an on-campus restaurant and part of its Culinary Arts department. Lunch and dinner are served Thursdays throughout the semester and offer a variety of cuisines each week.

Both the front of the house and back of the house are made up of students enrolled in classes.

“You learn new stuff every day, whether it’s from chef Barber or from the other students. We all have different levels of knowledge and experience. I am probably the youngest one in the class,” Maryssa Navarro, 21, a culinary arts major said.

Before guests are served, the student chefs spend hours prepping and working to create the multi-course menu that will be served that week.

“Our reservations list is always pretty competitive. Many of the same people have been coming in for over 10 years to eat,” Allison Flecky, a culinary arts instructor said.

Together, multiple classes work as one to provide an exceptional dining experience. Not only with the back-of-the-house team cooking the food, but a front-of-the-house team just like a real restaurant with waiters and waitresses to serve you.

Many of the students work at restaurants all over Orange County such as Water Grill and Wolfgang Puck at South Coast Plaza.

“I am a private chef that delivers restaurant quality food to people at home so they don’t have to go out to eat. This will be the future — affordable, high-quality food at home,” Héléne Smati, 45, a culinary arts major said.

The servers and managers work as hard as the kitchen staff, coming into class prior to the dining experience to learn about the dishes being created and to set up the restaurant for guests.

“The program teaches all of the students how to be well-rounded in the service industry. They find out what they want to do career-wise — become a chef, caterer, bake or own a restaurant,” Barber said.

The Captain’s Table is open to the public with prior reservations, for lunch or dinner on Thursdays for $14.

—Lauren Galvan contributed to this report.

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