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Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2012

MATC’s Student Restaurant Gets an Upgrade

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One of Milwaukee’s hidden-treasure lunch spots just became a lot less hidden. After 30 years of being tucked away on the sixth floor of a building at Milwaukee Area Technical College (MATC), where it was known mostly to MATC students and staff and a few deal hunters who worked Downtown, this fall the student-operated restaurant Cuisine moved to the first floor of the college’s Main Building (1015 N. Sixth St.), a location that, unlike the old one, actually has windows.

“Part of the reason for the move is our facilities were really old, so we wanted to make sure our students were working in a state-of-the-art kitchen,” says MATC Associate Dean Richard Busalacchi. “But we also wanted the new restaurant to be more accessible to the public. We’re looking to increase the volume of customers the students serve.”

Cuisine is operated by students nearing the end of MATC’s Culinary Arts program, and it is overseen by program faculty members. Open for lunch most Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays during the school year, the restaurant serves upscale food in a casual environment at bargain prices, usually just a little bit over cost. Entrées like braised beef short ribs, arctic char or seared duck breast sell for about $10-$12, and three-course meals run about $20. The menu changes weekly and is posted on the restaurant’s Facebook page.

Since it’s run by students in training, service can take a bit longer than at formal restaurants, Busalacchi says, but the waits are never as egregious as those seen on reality shows like “Hell’s Kitchen.” The popularity of those reality shows has spurred interest in cooking and culinary arts, so Cuisine’s new location indulges diners interested in the roots of their meal with a glass-heavy layout that lets them see the kitchen. The dining room even includes a few monitors that allow customers to watch the cooks in action. Next year the restaurant plans to add a deck that will expand its visibility, and it may begin offering limited dinner service.

“Our goal isn’t to turn a profit; it’s to give our students real restaurant experience,” Busalacchi says. “We’re one of the main colleges training people in Milwaukee’s culinary community, so we’re excited to increase exposure to the restaurant and to our Culinary Arts program as a whole.”