Stepping inside the Brickhouse Bistro in downtown Puyallup is just like stepping inside any other restaurant.
At the front of the bistro, a host is waiting with menus to seat customers, while waiters, dressed in aprons and carrying trays, take orders and serve food and drinks. Behind the front counter, chefs and staff bustle from the back kitchen to the front, preparing food and communicating with one another over orders.
But there’s one thing about the Brickhouse Bistro that sets it apart: The staff hard at work are all students from the advanced culinary class at Puyallup High School.
“It’s really work-based oriented,” said Donell Turner, teacher of the culinary classes at PHS and who oversees the students at the bistro. “They’re learning how to work. It’s a good preview for them to see if they want to (continue with culinary). It’s good teamwork.”
Since the start of the school year, these students have been preparing not only how to make food, but to work in a restaurant setting, studying areas from customer service to business planning and working in a team.
The culinary classes, part of the Career & Tech Ed Department at PHS, consist of three levels. Only students in the advanced culinary class get to work in the bistro.
It’s really work-based oriented. They’re learning how to work. It’s a good preview for them to see if they want to (continue with culinary). It’s good teamwork.
Donell Turner, culinary teacher at Puyallup High School
“Some will be in the (culinary) program for all three years, and if they want they go onto culinary school,” Turner said, who is also the advisor for the Culinary Club at PHS.
Located at 105 7th Street SW near the front of the PHS campus, the student-operated bistro is open to the public between noon and 1 p.m.
As students continue to improve their skills in the classroom, the menu for the bistro will change. As of right now, the bistro’s specialty is pizza, handmade and cooked right inside the restaurant’s brick oven.
Customers can choose between a four-cheese pizza baked with mozzarella, ricotta, asiago and Parmesan cheese layers, a pepperoni pizza, or a combo pizza complete with pepperoni, Italian sausage, red peppers, mushrooms, olives and onions. Two slices are $6. A single pizza slice and side salad combo is also available for $6.
A Balsamic Chicken Caesar salad acts as an entree for $8. If customers are in mood for dessert, a milk-chocolate cupcake covered in marshmallow frosting and toasted graham cracker crumbs is offered as a S’Mores Cupcake for $3.
Drinks available are bottled water ($1), soda ($2) and house lemonade ($2). One lemonade is made with pomegranates, which Turner says are currently in season, with the seeds floating in the drink to make for bright decoration and flavor.
$8 for a Balsamic Chicken Caesar salad entree
$6 for two slices of handmade brick oven pizza
$3 for a S’Mores Cupcake
All the money the bistro makes supports PHS’s Associated Student Body and competition culinary teams. Tips go toward student scholarships.
The students take their work at the bistro seriously, addressing Turner as “Chef” whenever they have a question.
“I have a front of house coordinator and a back of house coordinator,” Turner said. “We have to keep things brief because they only have one hour of service time.”
At the grand opening, some students who work as part of the pizza-making crew said things were off to a slow start, but as more people hear about the bistro, expect their work to pick up.
“I can’t wait until it gets busy,” said student Dan Vitt. “That’s the fun part.”
Vitt is no stranger to working quickly to make food. He worked at the Krusty Pup during the Washington State Fair in September. In the future, he wants to continue in the restaurant industry and open a sports bar.
Other students agree that the work they’re doing will benefit them in the future. Cheyenne Britto, who also works as part of the pizza-making crew at the bistro, once had her own “Cheyenne’s Baked Goods” business when she was younger. She says that dream isn’t over yet.
“I want to open my own bakery,” she said.
For now, the Brickhouse Bistro will be open to the public every Thursday from noon to 1 p.m., not including holidays and as long as the school’s schedule allows for it. Turner says she plans to advertise the bistro more on social media in the future.