On the heels of its grand opening, Legends Restaurant and Sports Bar (517 Missouri Avenue, East St. Louis, Illinois; 618-779-9982) is also busy preparing to open its kitchen to students from East St. Louis High School.
Working alongside the high school's culinary arts program, Legends will bus in juniors and seniors who are ready to get their hands dirty. Students will get a behind-the-scenes look at the workings of a kitchen, helping to slice and dice items for the day's meals. This is the type of hands-on experience you can't get from watching shows on Food Network, or within the walls of a classroom.
"Students will work with the chefs and get a chance to learn what skills are necessary in the culinary field," says Re-Essa Buckels of Legends. "It's one thing to learn something in the classroom, but it's another to be in an actual kitchen having to make orders back to back during a lunch rush."
The students won't be the only ones learning new things in this kitchen, the chefs and kitchen staff are surely in for some schooling as well.
"It should be interesting to see the chefs work with the students," Buckels says. "These are students who will be able to bring new ideas to the table.
While most restaurants might shy away from the idea of handing their kitchens over to a group of teens, Legends is looking to use the program as a way of inspiring the next generation of chefs.
"We want to bring something to the community," Buckels says. "With the restaurant we found a way to be part of the local community."
The exact start date and length of each session is still being coordinated, but the plan aims to put students to work at Legends not long after its three-day grand opening celebration, which takes place from April 19 to 21.
The grand opening will feature free food, drink specials, live entertainment and special appearances by Mayor Alvin Parks Jr. of East St. Louis and officials from East St. Louis School District 189.