Buon Appetite: Bergen Cafe is Back

by Erin McAnany

Culinary, pastry, horticulture, and hospitality students came together to present a dining experience to show what they’ve learned and the skills they have acquired taking courses at Bergen.

The menu this past week was inspired by Black History Month. The four-course meal included a mocktail southern peach sweet tea, vegan black eye pea soup, entrees which include blackened salmon, southern fried chicken, macaroni and cheese collard greens and honey glazed ham. Dessert was a hot sweet potato pie.

All the food comes from locally sourced companies. “The produce is obtained from Riviera Produce in Englewood, grocery products from US Foods and Driscoll Foods in Wayne, and meats are from Love Farms in Paterson,” said Professor Ronda Drakeford.

For students who are concerned about special diet options, Bergen Cafe offers them. “There are always vegetarian and vegan meals on hand,” said Professor Drakeford. They are also working on partnering with a kosher company in Paramus so everyone can enjoy a meal without worrying about whether they can eat it or not. 

The event is two classes going on at the same time, the front of house and back of house. The back of house course is taught by Chef Aaron Morrisey and Professor Drakeford. The food is prepared by the student in the back of the house. Professor Drakeford teaches in front of the house and the students are taught to serve the food. Professor Tomer Zilkha is the pastry chef and provides the desserts and bread that is served with the meals. Professor John Bandman teaches the student how to prepare beverages. All culinary courses are merged and work together with each other.

Chef Aaron has eight students and Professor Drakeford has eight as well. For the front of house, each student is in charge with tasks rotating on a weekly basis such as napkin folding, setting up silverware and acting as maître d’. The back of the house is similar. Everyone is tasked with something different such as doing dishes, serving customers, and busing.

The Bergen café lunches were affected by COVID and weren’t able to run for about a year and a half. “During COVID, with the food that we produced, we were feeding the homeless and putting packets together for anyone on campus who had a food disparity,” said Drakeford.

The menu is based on the time of the year or is regional. Next week will be Louisiana Creole cuisine. The lunch happens once a week, every Thursday from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. and costs $12 per person.

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