Greenville High School culinary arts students were friendly — although a little nervous — Thursday evening as they welcomed guests for a soft opening dinner ahead of officially opening their Lions Lair Café in January.

Whether they were looking through the reservation list and showing guests to their seats as hosts, taking drink orders and bringing out the night’s three courses as servers, or preparing the food at any of the stations in the kitchen, the students were focused as they put their hard work in front of the public.

Earlier this month, GHS culinary arts instructor Chef Lucas Kiowski announced that after 12 years of building the program an on-campus restaurant will be opening to give students more of a sense of what it’s like to work a shift in a real restaurant.

And, while the Lion’s Lair will initially be open only on the second Thursday of each month, Kiowski hopes that the restaurant (coupled with the professional certifications in food handling and food safety management that the students can earn) will help the program to be a solid “feeder program” for local restaurants.

“This evening has been 12 years in the making for me,” Kiowski said. “All of the students performed above and beyond expectations. It was extremely gratifying for everyone involved, including our guests, who were so gracious.”

At the Thursday soft opening of the Lions Lair Café, the students served a “fancy Thanksgiving dinner” consisting of:

• An appetizer, which was spinach and artichoke dip served in its own bread bowl;

• A main entree, which was a stuffed turkey roulade (sort of a turkey “roll up” with cornbread dressing with a brown, gravy-like sauce), served with French green beans, mashed sweet potatoes and cranberry puree, and;

• A dessert, which was a creamy, layered pumpkin mousse.

All three courses of the well thought-out meal complemented each other, and they each presented a rich combination of flavors and textures.

The presentation for each course was also elegant and colorful, and the servers were extremely warm and attentive as they checked on their appreciative guests.

Although GHS’ culinary arts students look forward to opening the Lions Lair in January, the culinary program has been active in the community for years, catering several showcase events for the high school’s career and technology education programs.

This year, they have also been preparing lunches every few weeks that teachers can buy, which is keeping students busy and well-practiced for the opening of their restaurant.

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Travis Hairgrove is a news reporter and features writer at the Herald-Banner and covers city government for many municipalities in Hunt County. To reach him outside of business hours, email THairgroveReporter@gmail.com.

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