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California Culinary Institute opens 'The Bistro' to give students real life restaurant experience

The classroom and Bistro program takes 8 months, 400 hours in the kitchen then another 400 hours in the bistro.

SAN DIEGO — The California Culinary Arts Institute has been giving an education in the culinary industry since 2021, but it was the opening of the Bistro last month that caught my eye and I had to check it out.

As I walked into the kitchen an order was up.

"OK we have an order, two Broccoli soups and one Eggplant Parmesan."

The staff at the California Culinary Arts Institute in Barrio Logan are also the students. Curating it all is Executive Chef Sohrab Zardkoohi. "The culinary classes start with a 4-month program before they go into the Bistro, and it's all connected to each other," said Zardkoohi.

Many of the students have never worked in a professional kitchen. That's why Chef Zardkoohi opened the Bistro, to give them really life experience in a working kitchen. "They will be doing menus, purchasing, management, front of the house, back of the house, also food costs."

The classroom and Bistro program takes 8 months, 400 hours in the kitchen then another 400 hours in the bistro, Chef says baking is more intense, "And the baking class is 600 hours in the back and 400 hours in the Bistro."

Beyond the classroom and Bistro CCAI helps with employment. "We have a very good job placement with Hotel Sheraton, Hotel Hilton, casinos like Barona and resorts in Carlsbad."

Hermenejildo Villapando is a student who's already found a career path with Hilton. "Within a few months I had a job, and I was bouncing back and forth between my job and school. They understood and it was a better boost on my background."

Students are also eligible for tuition reimbursement from their employer. "They help me with getting a 401K, getting me my schooling money back. So, all the hard work I've been putting into it, they see it and are helping me."

CCAI plans on donating 50% of the profit from the Bistro to Solutions for Change and the other half to the Humane Society. To do that, the Bistro needs guests and so far, they are happy.

One guest told CBS 8, "We came here and I was blown away by how attentive the students were, how great they were recommending things, everything was so delicious."

In Barrio Logan on National Ave, it's still a hidden gem but that will change once the word gets out. The Bistro at the California Culinary Arts Institute is open Monday through Friday 11 to 1 PM.

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