GREEN Culinary students from Portage Lakes Career Center (PLCC) are gaining professional restaurant experience with the opening of the school’s new restaurant, the Neon Lime.

The first public look of the restaurant was Jan. 16 when students held an open house that included an opportunity for visitors to see the new restaurant and to sample some of the fare that will be offered. Students also hosted a menu tasting on Jan. 23 and a buy-one, get-one on the house Jan. 24.

Chef Courtney Bennett is the culinary arts instructor for PLCC and said the process happened very fast. It was a work in progress at the beginning of school.

“It has been a process,” she said. “It has been a good journey.”

Bennett said it was a whole team that organized and got the restaurant started. Bennett is new to PLCC this school year and said the process for a restaurant had begun before she came to the school.

“I was lucky enough to be on board to kind of bring this to fruition,” she said.

Officials met with architects and all those involved in the team. Bennett said Krista Haubert, coordinator of marketing and public relations, played a huge part in the design. Bennett worked to put the menu together and the restaurant will have a winter and spring menu.

Next year, when the restaurant opens earlier in the school year, they will have fall, winter and spring menus. The senior culinary students will have input on what is on the menu as they will be cooking for the restaurant. Juniors will do the prep work. The seniors had the opportunity to do recipe testing and costing for the current menu items.

“They got a hands-on view of what it is to start a menu from scratch,” said Bennett.

Bennett said they will do as much as they can do fresh and from scratch in house including the pasta that will be made from scratch.

There is a total of 30 students in the program and Bennett said she can take up to 24 students in each class.

“Now we have the front of the house and the back of the house experience,” she said.

With the restaurant opening on site, the students and future students will have more opportunities to learn the ins and outs of the food service business from all angles.

Karli Jones, a senior from Manchester High School, is excited to get serving at the new restaurant. Her reaction to the Neon Lime is “that it is cool.”

Many of the students are in the food service industry now and as far as the seniors go, most are planning on a career in the industry. The restaurant will give them a real-world experience. They will rotate from host to bussing to line cook to serving and other positions.

New Franklin resident Christine Lemley was at the open house because Coventry Senior and PLCC Culinary Student Christian Lemley is her grandson.

“Oh my gosh, the cream of potato soup is to die for,” she said.

Lemley said everything was very good.

“French fries, salad, pork, it is all really well done. The restaurant is beautiful,” she said.

Christian’s mom, Angela Lemley, said the grilled cheese and potato soup were her favorites. She would definitely come to the restaurant. Christine Lemley said Christian likes to bake and is learning all aspects of the restaurant business.

Bennett liked to cook from an early age. Eric and Connie Bail, Bennett’s parents, were on hand for the opening. Eric Bail said he thinks the program will give the students a great start.

“Working with the public tonight offers great experience,” he said.

Bail said the food was fantastic and the bad part was it was only going to last two hours.

The Bail family has a restaurant background and Eric said he and Courtney were in the kitchen all the time when she was growing up.

“It is in her blood,” he said.

The Bails had the Kool-Aid house on the block as Courtney’s friends came around often to eat pancakes and more.

“I washed a lot of dishes, they didn’t stick around for that,” Eric Bail said laughing. “I enjoyed it.”

The winter menu for the Neon Lime includes 
Roasted chicken noodle, creamy potato and leek soups
; apple pomegranate and winter harvest salads; Sandwiches with a choice of sides, including a salmon BLT, Roast beef
, fig and brie grilled cheese.

Entrees include Sage Sausage stuffed pork roulade, braised beef pappardelle and a grilled chicken and roasted vegetable quinoa bowl with walnut pesto.

Haubert said when they began designing the Neon Lime, they knew they wanted something contemporary and modern. She began looking at Pinterest and Google. She said they talked about a live plant wall and then found the lighting was not conducive to growing the plants. A brick wall was something all the team members wanted.

“We pieced things together and we are very pleased,” Haubert said.

She said it was great to get a chance to help choose the furniture and decorations for the Neon Lime.

The Neon Lime will be open to the public on Thursdays beginning Feb. 13 through April 30 from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. and reservations can be made by calling 330-896-TABL. The school is at 4401 Shriver Road.