Food News

April Barney is Prepping Skyline Kids for Life in the Kitchen, and Living It Herself (Interview)

Chef April Barney might be the busiest chef in Dallas. Her primary staff includes students at Skyline High School, but her clientele in the evening and on weekends can vary, depending on which local chef has swooped her up to help with an event. During the summer she helped orchestrate the kitchen madness at Fork Fight in Trinity Groves, in addition to any other culinary event, plus a pop-up dinner at Ten Bells Tavern.

Now that school is back in session she'll lead her students through a culinary program that will teach them essential elements of running a kitchen -- from inventory management, POS system, to plating food -- in hopes of preparing them for a job after school.

As part of the curriculum, Barney and her students run the Skyline Raider Café, which is a full-service restaurant on campus that is open to the public. Here's our chat about the cafe, the on-campus garden, how to fix a cut with super glue and many other fascinating things.

Can anyone eat at the Skyline Raider Cafe? We're open two days a week and anyone can go. But, we spend the first six weeks of school getting ready. The kids are learning everything from the menu, POS system, prep list, inventory, and they're getting their certifications. Then, in October we'll open two days a week and anyone can come from 11 am to 1 pm. We have a pretty extensive menu and average about 85 covers a day.

Can students eat there? No, because we can't compete with the cafeteria, but we get a lot of the staff and faculty. Teachers only get a 30-minute lunch, so they will often email their orders and I have a student that sits in front of a laptop and just writes down orders and runs them.

Where can we find a menu? On Facebook at Skyline Raider Café.

Are you able to use any vegetables you harvest in the school garden? Yes, and it actually helps us a lot with budgeting because we're only open two days a week and so the gardens plots are perfect.

So the kids also learn about gardening? Yes, definitely. I've also been partnering with the school's horticulture program to work on some sustainability projects. This past year we only grew a little bit because it was our first year, but we have another plot this year and so I think it'll really take off.

This summer I spent a week at the World Hunger Relief Farm in Waco to learn some of their farming innovations to bring back up here to campus. We're going to starting doing a worm-composting bin for our waste.

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Lauren Drewes Daniels is the Dallas Observer's food editor. She started writing about local restaurants, chefs, beer and kouign-amanns in 2011. She's driven through two dirt devils and is certain they were both some type of cosmic force.

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