Salem student chefs prep pastries, colorful drinks at new café

Osvaldo Guzman, 17, demonstrates a latte-art making machine at the CTEC Café on Tuesday, April 5, 2022 (Rachel Alexander/Salem Reporter)

Osvaldo Guzman often gets inspiration for drink specials while driving around Salem.

The 17-year-old senior at North Salem High School has crafted menu items for a student-run cafe including the “Sharknado,” a blue raspberry drink with a gummy candy shark on top, and a sparkling lemonade mixing Italian soda with regular lemonade. 

Guzman said that drink was inspired by the classic Hannah Montana song “The Best of Both Worlds” and aims to please people who like the flavor of citrus but want some carbonation in their lives.

“It’s fun for the students,” Guzman said of the cafe’s changing menu.

He’s one of about two dozen culinary students staffing the Salem-Keizer Career Technical Education Center’s new CTEC Café, which opened in February at the school’s campus at 3501 Portland Road N.E.

A grand opening was held last week, bringing in elected officials and district leaders to sample the cafe’s offerings.

Ham and cheese sandwiches prepared to serve at the CTEC Café on Tuesday, April 5, 2022 (Rachel Alexander/Salem Reporter)

Students in their second year of the program are trained to do all the tasks needed to keep the cafe running, including making daily sandwiches, entree salads and fresh pastries, planning menus, making coffee, taking orders and ordering inventory.

The cafe is a new development for CTEC’s culinary program, which opened in 2019. It’s one of 10 career-focused programs where high school juniors and seniors spend half their school days on campus taking hands-on courses in their chosen field, and the rest of the week at their home high schools.

The cafe is open school days from 8:30 a.m. to 12:45 p.m.  and is intended to complement other CTEC programs that provide a service to the public. Sandwiches from the previous day are for sale in the morning, with a fresh batch of items coming out around 11:30 a.m.

The center’s auto body and cosmetology programs both have appointments for car detailing and salon services, respectively. Instructors envision the cafe as a place those visiting CTEC for another service can grab a latte or enjoy lunch while students work on their car.

The cafe’s prices are cheaper than most places in Salem, with most coffee drinks priced between $1 and $3, and soups and salads between $3 and $5.

Culinary instructor Austin Stinton stirs a pot of minestrone soup to be served at the CTEC Café on Tuesday, April 5, 2022 (Rachel Alexander/Salem Reporter)

Austin Stinton, the culinary instructor, currently manages the business side of operations, though he hopes to eventually train students to handle that. 

He said the prices are set to cover the cost of materials only because he wanted to incentivize customers so students would get more practice.

“I want these kids to have as many interactions as possible,” he said.

So far, the culinary students have gotten an enthusiastic reception from their classmates, particularly in mornings as a cheap breakfast option, and during the school’s lunch period. 

“We get stupid long lines in here,” said Tuesday Franklin, 17, a culinary student and senior at South Salem High School.

On a recent morning, senior Carter Halstead was preparing sandwich rolls, weighing out two ounce portions of dough and forming them into small balls on a baking sheet. He transferred to West Salem High School from Tigard over the summer and said he’s always loved cooking and baking, but never had a chance to develop those skills at school.

Halstead plans to attend Cascade Culinary Institute in Bend after graduation. He said he most enjoys interacting with customers in the cafe.

“I love it. I think it’s really nice because it’s a lot of real world, hands-on experience,” he said.

Culinary student Jillian Hansen, 17, makes an oat milk latte at the CTEC Café on Tuesday, April 5, 2022 (Rachel Alexander/Salem Reporter)

Culinary students Tuesday Franklin, left, and Osvaldo Guzman, both 17, look over a binder of drink specials at CTEC Café on Tuesday, April 5, 2022 (Rachel Alexander/Salem Reporter)

Carter Halstead, 17, prepares sandwich rolls to serve at the CTEC Café on Tuesday, April 5, 2022 (Rachel Alexander/Salem Reporter)

Contact reporter Rachel Alexander: [email protected] or 503-575-1241.

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