Hidden Valley Cafe
Hidden Valley Cafe helps put VHSS on the map
Jody Hevesi, hospitality teacher at Valley Heights Secondary School, took lunchtime food service to another level when she created the Hidden Valley Cafe nearly two decades ago.
It is not a cafeteria - the school also has a fully serviced cafeteria Hidden Valley Cafe is a restaurant in the school, staffed by students.
“Students have lunch here, and staff as well,” said Leanne Buchanan, Head of Guidance at Valley Heights. “Three times a week (Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday) they have a full lunch.”
It’s fast, it’s affordable, it’s healthy, and maybe most important, it’s good food.
“We do the majority of it from scratch,” said Hevesi, who teaches three classes a day and runs the lunch hour service. “I will order in croissants or bagels, but the majority is from scratch.
“Staff, students and community members can come in, sit down, eat and enjoy a lunch during the lunch period.”
The cafe sets up for about 55 on a regular-service day, plus takeout which brings it to about 120. Wastefree Wednesday is the exception it’s dine-in only.
“We have a sandwich of the day, we have two salads of the day, and then we have a dessert of the day.
“On the days that we’re not open (Monday and Thursday) we sell homemade soup, homemade buns... almost like a soup kitchen. We make a massive pot of soup and we serve probably 200 portions of soup and fresh buns.”
Hidden Valley Cafe prices have been standardized - soup of the day is $1.50 and entrees $5.
“You have to make it affordable,” said Hevesi.
Entrees change daily - a typical entree might be lasagna and salad, or pizza, or stuffed chicken. Last Thursday was pasta day.
“Right now my seniors are basing it on countries. So for five weeks they have a chosen country. Next week (Nov. 26-30) they’re doing Hungary - they’re picking the most popular Hungarian foods. We do foods that represent those countries to get a different ethnic experience. It’s nice, really different.”
Students volunteering during the lunch period earn community service hours waiting on tables and serving food.
In addition to the regular hospitality classes and lunches, Hidden Valley Cafe also does catering.
“A lot of catering,” Hevesi nodded. “Right now we have about 800 pounds of turkey dinners ordered between tomorrow (Nov. 22) and Christmas. We have schools, we have community members, Lions Club, Optimists... they call us and ask ‘can you make us turkey dinner for... however many people?’”
Her Grade 10-12 hospitality classes are usually in the morning and, after focusing on safety for the first two weeks in September, they cook five days a week.
“Some students actually come to catering events with me in the evening or on weekends. It’s community service hours and it’s life skills. I also have co-op students and apprenticeship students.”
Operating on a limited budget, Hevesi makes it work by putting whatever money is made at the restaurant back into the program.
“It’s a little bit different, it’s an experience. I want them to do this ‘hands on.’
“All my classes are full - Grade 9 through Grade 12 - they’re maxed out, which is nice. It’s a good hands on experience for the kids and I think a big thing, too, is they want to get out of the classroom where they’re sitting down, they want to do something different. Not everyone wants to be a chef, but they like that it’s a different atmosphere, the music’s playing and we’re up and about.
“I’ve been here 22 years and it’s been a lot of fun,” Hevesi smiled, noting hospitality teacher was actually a second career. She started out as a chef at the Four Seasons in Montreal, then went back to school to get her teaching degree. With her chef experience she carved out a successful career teaching hospitality, eventually finding her home ‘in the valley’ south of Langton on Hwy 59.
“This is home for me, this is truly home.”
Students from Courtland Public School enjoy lunch at the Hidden Valley Cafe located at Valley Heights Secondary School on Hwy 59 south of Langton.
Pasta is served at the Hidden Valley Cafe on Thursday, Nov. 15. The restaurant is staffed by student volunteers.