On October 3, Chef Mike Herbert took a group of three NOVA culinary students – Bruce Atkinson, David Gao and Duong Van Huynh – to Chuy’s Mexican Restaurant in Springfield Mall. Manager Scott Rodgers was there to greet them, along with a number of assistant managers, who showed them around and explained how Chuy’s came to be. They learned how Chuy’s has a team of decorators who style each restaurant differently, considering the local tastes and preferences. They also saw that every Chuy’s has a tribute somewhere, somehow, to Elvis Presley, the “Patron Saint” of Chuy’s.
The managers showed the students how the restaurant has pictures of each menu item, so the cooks can make each one look like the corresponding picture. The students learned about how they order their food, how they staff, and how they make their sauces and other items daily.
Then, to top it off, they met Yolanda Rivas. She makes the tortillas handmade and fresh by the hundreds every day. She does an amazing job and showed students how she takes the tortilla dough, places it between two plastic sheets, and presses it in a specialized tortilla press. She then carefully places the tortillas on a large, heated, rotating metal circle, as they heat to just the correct doneness. Everyone agreed she made it look easy until it was their turn to try it. It was not as easy as it looks, as the dough stuck to their hands, folded over, balled up, wrinkled or somehow messed up. Yet Rivas patiently corrected everyone’s mistakes, as everyone had a great time learning.
NOVA Culinary students left with a better appreciation of what it takes to make a successful restaurant, and hopefully will apply their knowledge in their culinary pursuits.