When you think of teenagers making dinner, you probably imagine burgers, fries or nachos, not creme brulee, yellowfin tuna or pepper-crusted tenderloin. But that’s what the students at Savvy’s Bistro inside Ben Barber Career Tech Academy are serving up.And everyone is invited to dine.“A lot of people don’t know it’s a student-run restaurant,” said Chandler Jackson, a senior at Frontier High School and Savvy’s executive chef. “Chef (Adair Smith) teaches us everything, then let’s us go. Once people taste our food, they fall in love.” The menu -- and the students -- can get creative, featuring weekly special that range from favorites like Italian and Chinese food to Thai and Indian cuisine. And, yes, you can get a hamburger, but not just any burger. Jackson’s favorite is the Your Way Hamburger, which he takes with fried onion straws, barbecue sauce, mustard, lettuce, pesto mayonnaise and pepper jack cheese on a jalapeno cheddar bun. New this year is the Triple B Burger, named for the school’s assistant principal, that features a 4-ounce beef patty, a layer of deep-fried macaroni and cheese, over-easy egg, two strips of bacon, another 4-ounce beef patty and all the veggies you want on a jalapeno cheddar bun. “I think people underestimate us,” said Summit High senior Paige Rogers, who is the restaurant’s to-go manager. “When they come in they know, it’s actually good food. We would love for people to know that teenagers can cook and do a really good job.”Although Savvy’s opened in 2006, the restaurant remains a schoolyard secret.“This is Mansfield’s best-kept secret,” Jackson said.But Smith would like to change that.“I want to see them slammed,” said the chef, who is starting his eighth year at the school. “I want them to say we’re exhausted after class. It’s tough to get people in here because nobody knows we’re back here.”Prices shouldn’t keep anyone away. The cost of the Triple B Burgers, which comes with a side, is $9, while the most expensive item on the menu is the pepper-crusted beef tenderloin with shallot demiglace over carmelized onions with two sides for $12. For dessert, campfire cheesecake -- chocolate cheesecake with marshmallow sauce on a graham cracker crust -- is only $3. Most sandwiches, which come with a side dish, are $6.“We make it inexpensive so the students will experience what a busy restaurant is like,” Smith said. “We’re not out to make money. The goal is for our students to experience a full-service restaurant.”As in other restaurants, servers and chefs have to work with what they have.“We started making our own dressings,” Smith said. “We were out of the citrus viniagrette that goes on the Caribbean chicken salad and Tiara (Seastrunk) made it. We were like ‘this way is way better!’”Along with making delicious food, students learn how to create and keep pace in a busy kitchen, Smith said.“They are educated about cooking techniques,” he said. “When they create something, they understand what food does and how to manipulate it.The biggest thing they learn is teamwork,” Smith said. “If they don’t work together, the restaurant fails.”Savvy’s Bistro, which is open when schools are, will open for the season Tuesday. Hours will be 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays during the school year.
Amanda Rogers, 817-473-4451 Twitter: @AmandaRogersNM