Bocuse Institute students open pop-up restaurant: ‘It’s an incredible experience’

This graduation project for students on the International Culinary Arts Management degree program is a rich and educational experience that leaves room for their creativity. Report to Lyon.

As soon as we pass the restaurant door, students dressed in black take our coats. The room is small, about thirty seats are set up. Clara, a third year student in the International Culinary Arts Management degree course, tends to our table. The student is project manager for the creation of this ephemeral restaurant, called Öko. “It comes from ‘ökologie’, which means ecology in German,” she explains.

At the end of their course, students of this bachelor’s degree from the Institut Bocuse, in Lyon (69), must carry out a major degree project. They create an ephemeral restaurant, from A to Z: concept, marketing, financing, decoration, menu design, preparation of dishes, service…

Explore all aspects of setting up a restaurant

Groups of 24 students take turns in carrying out this project. This first group that created a pop-up restaurant was divided into different teams: finance, marketing, sponsorships and human resources; design, nutrition and kitchen design. Once the restaurant opens, they are divided between dining room and kitchen.

Sometimes some students want to move from one team to another to see different positions. For the Öko project, the focus is on the plate. There is therefore a need for more cooking students and a team focused on the creativity of the menus”, says Marielle Salvador, head of education for the Ephemeral Restaurant project.

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Seek funding like real restorers

“When you get to this room, everything is white. It’s a challenge to dress everything up, knowing that painting or hanging pictures on the walls is forbidden. The nerves of war, is to create decorations without a budget. Without chairs or tables it is impossible to welcome customers!” says Clara.

The school pays 300 euros per project e students must seek the remainder of the funding themselves. A “sponsorship” team turned to restaurants, artists… to obtain furniture, tableware and decorations. The menus, for example, were created for free by an artist from Lyon.

The menus painted by a local artist/ © Amélie Petitdemange.

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A restaurant concept around ecology

From the kitchen to the dining room, everything is designed around ecology and anti-waste. The glasses, carafes and vases come from the Culo boutique, which makes them from bottles of wine. The paintings are made by an artist who uses old canvases to create new ones. And in the kitchen the challenge is not to throw anything away.

«When we order vegetables, we don’t throw anything away. The Jerusalem artichoke morsel served as an appetizer is, for example, made with the leftovers from the Jerusalem artichoke dish. It’s the same for celery and leek: we don’t throw anything away. The leek greens are used in a sauce, the leftover celery is ground into a powder and put into patties. As for the pork sausage, it’s made with a pig’s head which is usually thrown away,” explains Chadi, the student chef of this project.

For Mariella Salvador, the projects created by the students are the sign of the new trends of the profession. “We are increasingly attentive to the environment, even in the kitchen”, confirms Clara.

Bocuse report

Clara and Chadi, international culinary arts management graduate students at Bocuse Institute./ © Amélie Petitdemange.

It summarizes three years of training in the culinary arts

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This project, which spans three months, is a step back at the end of the degree. “The goal is to synthesize and apply what has been learned during the three years of training“, explains Marielle Salvador. Throughout the duration of the project, the students are followed by trainers and must adapt to the assessments.

On the first day of opening of the pop-up restaurant, the students organize a “soft opening” with about fifteen people from the school: tutors, chefs… After this lunch, the teaching team gives feedback to the students. Objective : suitable for opening to the public which takes place the same evening.

“We made some observations, especially on the service in the dining room. We didn’t understand the concept, there was no explanation before serving us. The presentation of the dishes, on the other hand, was very nice. One of the most beautiful projects I’ve seen”, says Marielle Salvador .

“We have the opportunity to experience”

“To get to these dishes, there’s a lot of work in the kitchen. It’s very tiring but it’s an amazing experience. I love this project“, testifies Chadi. In the kitchen, the position of chef allows him to develop his culinary but also managerial skills. “Everyone has a different personality, you have to adapt your communication”.

For him, it’s also an opportunity to test a concept without taking too much risk. “In real life, it’s our money. If the restaurant doesn’t work, we go bankrupt. There we have the opportunity to experiment,” emphasizes the young man.

A demanding but satisfying job, adds Clara: “We wake up and go to bed thinking about the project. But it is very satisfying to see dishes at the table that we find beautiful“.

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Oral presentation before a jury

At the end of the week, the project concludes with a defense before a jury. “They have to present their projects as if we were investors. There are chefs, finance experts, design…”, says Marielle Salvador. Students are assessed especially on their business plan and on the defense itself.

In the end, a chef evaluates them for practicality in the kitchen. Students also mark each other, for example on table setting. Finally, a self-assessment completes the conclusion of the project and assigns an overall score.

Throughout the year, the groups follow one another. Six more pop-up restaurant projects will see the light of day in the coming months. The next group will open a restaurant on the theme of “mess”: they will use pastry techniques to make the dishes.

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