Faculty and staff from the College of Hospitality and Tourism Leadership at the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee can’t wait to tell the community about what they’re cooking up.
The cafe at the USFSM campus, 8350 N. Tamiami Trail, formerly known as Jonathan’s, will reopen in the fall as a campus-operated cafe. The initiative came from a redesign idea out of the College of Hospitality and Tourism Leadership. The concept was floated before, but this spring the university got serious about incorporating experiential learning into the student cafe, which is also open to the public.
Jonathan’s was previously operated by an outside group, Canteen. Canteen is a division of Compass Group USA, a company providing dining services to workplaces, schools and hospitals.
“Sometime in April or May, the chancellor came to me and asked if we would be interested in taking it over because the students really want a different experience,” said Pat Moreo, the dean of the College of Hospitality and Tourism Leadership.
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After speaking with the faculty, Moreo said they all agreed it was a good idea, as long as three conditions were met.
“One, it had to meet the mission of educating students,” Moreo said. “Two, we had to have the capacity to have quality food and three, it’s got to be financially feasible.”
Student interns from the College of Hospitality and Tourism Leadership, who will be paid employees, will work behind the counter, manage shifts and help in the kitchen. Other students will have the chance to stop in to see real-world examples and learn about equipment and processes.
The revamped student cafe will reopen in fall 2017.
Local chef Rov Avila, who helps at the USFSM Culinary Innovation Lab in Lakewood Ranch, will be the driving culinary force behind the new cafe, which has yet to be named. USFSM will have a naming contest and ask for suggestions from students once it opens in the fall.
The details and complete menu are being worked out, but Avila and Moreo promise a “huge upgrade in healthy and tasty meal options,” according to a USFSM press release.
The menu will be an ever-changing culinary experience, Avila said. As the day moves from morning to afternoon, the menu will switch from Danish, pastries, muffins and other breakfast items to soups made from scratch, burgers cooked over an open flame and made-to-order salads and sandwiches.
Other daily hot specials will change from week to week, with potential dishes such as stir fry and tacos. Other possibilities include grab-and-go deli packets prepared by Boar’s Head, a soft-serve ice cream machine and baked goods from local bakeries.
70 seating capacity at USFSM student cafe
Local company Sea Breeze Coffee and Tea will continue to provide the lifeblood of all college students, and the cafe plans to add an espresso machine as well. The university’s Student Government Association has agreed to cover the student body’s coffee costs for the first semester and possibly the entire year.
Avila graduated from what was Manatee Technical Institute’s Culinary Arts Program in 2011. He went on to become the executive chef at YachtSea Grille until it closed and is also an instructor for a class in Manatee Technical College’s Hospitality and Tourism program.
He wants the USFSM student cafe, which will also be open to the public, to be a “place of gathering” for everyone where students can learn from him and each other.
I’ve taken a great liking to passing down whatever little I’ve learned over the years.
Rov Avila, local chef and hospitality instructor
“I’ve taken a great liking to passing down whatever little I’ve learned over the years,” Avila said. “Success to me, at least in the culinary world, is not amassing the recipes I’m coming up with, but it’s sharing the knowledge.”
The cafe will reopen at the start of the fall semester.