The Restaurant at Kellogg Ranch debuted its brand new menu Sept. 13 consisting of dishes from around the world.
The menu highlights cuisines including Latin, Asian, South African and French.
RKR filled plenty of reservations unlike the past few years due to COVID. Chatter filled the room mixed with clinks of glasses of wine and features flavorful dishes and soaring views of the campus through restaurant windows.
The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner with the staff consisting of hospitality students.
This season’s menu featured dishes like spicy poke nachos, Moroccan cauliflower steak smash sliders, caprese sourdough, charred broccolini, spiced salmon and Ray’s jerk chicken which is a fan favorite across the board with guests and employees. Guests can also pick from a trio of desserts including the rkr apple crumble, brownie sundae and a simple sorbet.
Jason Zhang, a hospitality lecturer and RKR business manager, explained the process behind how the menu is created. Zhang, alongside a team of chefs and vendors, gather together over a spread of appetizer, dish and dessert ideas. Students are free to voice their opinions or critiques throughout rounds of menus.
“We want to focus on diversity, so we look at many sorts of global flavors but with local ingredients,” Zhang said.
The RKR faculty created the “family meal” fries on the small plate section of the menu with the feeling of warmth in mind. The crispy shoe-string fries provide a taste of familiarity that the RKR crew has built their bond on spending hours together in the kitchen and outside of it. The herbs used to cook and garnish with are grown in the farm right outside of RKR. Students grow and take care of the garden, later picking and using herbs for the dishes.
RKR is packed with student-employees running the show. Student staff come in twice a week for eight hours a day training, prepping, serving and cooking. The RKR staff consists of students tasked with the role of a host, a waiter, cooks, a bartender and a manager. Students take turns to experience different roles over the course of a semester.
Zhang emphasizes the importance of a strong team of passionate students. These students develop close friendships with each other both in the kitchen and outside of it.
“I would say at the beginning of the class everybody is strangers,” Zhang said. “But halfway through, I’m comfortable. And then by the end of the class, they’re brothers and sisters.”
Hospitality major and former RKR student, Antonio Acosta, expressed his joy and gratitude for the program. Acosta is a regular at RKR, with most employees greeting him at the door and his table. Each time he pays a visit he makes sure to order a three-course meal with a tall glass of rosé.
“I enjoy coming here often,” Acosta said. “I come here like an hour before class just because I loved it so much.”
Hospitality student August Huizar finished up his last day as a bartender in this rotation. His first rotation was as a waiter serving guests, making sure their experience was top-notch. However, once he began bartending without prior experience other than working as a barista at the campus Starbucks, Huizar struggled to find footing behind the counter.
“The first day was a bit tricky — I admit I needed to study a bit more,” Huizar said. “I’m very familiar with trying to keep up my pace, especially when orders need to be picked up.”
Working at RKR is a learning experience. According to Zhang, most of these students walk into the kitchen with little to no knowledge of cooking.
Once an engineering student, Huizar learned his passions stood elsewhere. Having to choose between two of CPP’s top programs, engineering and hospitality, Huizar faced a challenging decision.
“I was pretty settled on either becoming an electrical or mechanical engineer, and for me, I feel like going to Cal Poly Pomona was really the centerpiece of whether I wanted to do this,” Huizar said. “At the end of the day, I kind of just decided that hospitality was what I was most interested in.”
As for future rotations, Huizar hopes to eventually take on the challenge of a student-manager role.
Zhang emphasizes the importance of pushing hospitality students forward in their careers. Plenty of students who went through RKR rotations got industry jobs straight out of college. Some earned positions in the middle of their senior year.
“For our students, it’s a chance to learn technique but to also cook and practice in an actual restaurant,” Zhang said. “We try to do our best to make sure our students are in the front seat.”
Today, hospitality alumni have scored major jobs with companies like Mariott, Hilton, Disney and Four Seasons. Working at RKR is the final step, similar to a capstone project, before the student is released into the hospitality industry.
The restaurant’s holistic nature in the creation of the menu can be attributed to its individual students and staff who each implement dedication to their role. With this menu, students and guests are able to see the interconnecting relationship with food and forte.