The Vista Room gives education to students while others receive lunch
The Vista Room in Burk Hall gives students hands-on experience with working in a restaurant
March 11, 2023
On Tuesdays and Thursdays on the fourth floor of Burk Hall, there is a classroom unlike any other at SF State. There is chatter among, plates being set down and the smell of food filling the air. This is the Vista Room.
The Vista Room is a laboratory classroom “run like a restaurant.” as said by Tim Shaw, the chef instructor of the Vista Room.
“We operate when there are classes, so students learn sort of the basics of service,” Shaw said. “They learn about recipe, costing, menu development and the food service side of the hospitality industry.”
At the Vista Room, students are the hosts and servers as they learn how to plate food and make it aesthetically pleasing.
“I hope they have a good experience, I hope the food tastes good and looks good,” Shaw said. “I just hope people understand what it is that we’re trying to do because there is sort of a whole conversation going on right now. Not just the school, but in the world in general about how poorly service people are treated. I hope people can understand these are students.”
Occasionally some students will help Shaw cook if they are interested, but it is not required since the course is not a culinary program.
“They [students] might come in a couple of hours early and help bake the bread or make the desserts or something rather than being out in the front doing service or waiting tables,” Shaw said.
According to Shaw, the only requirement you need in order to take this course is the English section of general education.
“It’s fun when you get students who aren’t just hospitality students because they bring something else,” Shaw said.
Madison Berry is a third year communication studies major at SF State, who is taking the course for the first time and works as a server at the Vista Room.
“I needed an elective and thought this would be a cool world to dive into and explore,” Berry said in an email. “Honestly didn’t realize it was an immersive class until it started.”
According to Berry, she works in customer service and being involved with the Vista Room is teaching her how to cater to customers and give a tailored experience.
“I would want future students considering this course to know that it is a full-on crash course experience, but honestly, sometimes being thrown into the deep end is the best way to see if you can keep up and learn,” Berry said.
The Vista Room was closed for two years because of COVID-19. Before the pandemic they were open three to five days a week depending on how many students were enrolled in the class.
Prior to the lockdown, the Vista Room had a menu for a month entirely designed by students.
“That was really fun for me because I get bored with my own food,” Shaw said. “I know what I can do, but having to take someone else’s recipe or even more importantly someone else’s grandmother’s recipe and learn how to do it right, that was a lot of fun.”
The Vista Room currently changes its menu every four weeks, three times total in the semester.
For $19, there is a three-course meal that comes with one appetizer, an entree and dessert. However, they also serve single dishes too.
Shaw said he tries to make vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free meals in order to cater to everyone.
When food is left over, Shaw said he and the students usually take it home to eat. He hopes to bring back Gator Grub, an app that notifies students registered to the app when there is free food on campus in order to limit the restaurant’s food waste. However, Gator Grub has been suspended since COVID-19.
“Sometimes as I’m hitting the push, students would start to come running up the stairs,” Shaw said.
Last Tuesday the Vista Room served 50 lunches, their highest attendance rate yet.
Most of the clientele are faculty and staff, but Shaw hopes more students will find out about it and come in.
Before Berry started the class, she said, “Honestly I had no idea this program even existed so more recognition would definitely be beneficial and more funding will allow for the program to expand.”
Shaw is working on trying to get signs around the campus to promote the Vista Room so more people can know about it.
“I’m just happy to be back with students. I mean food is my love language,” Shaw said. “I love getting a new group of students every semester and seeing them nervous and trepidatious and by the end of the semester they’re expediting and yelling out for the plates. That’s why I love teaching.”
As for the future of the Vista Room, Shaw hopes that class can grow into something bigger than it is today.
“I would love in the 10-year plan there was a new space on campus that we could actually have a ground floor restaurant that’s open for lunch and dinner and it’s totally student-run,” Shaw said. “ I don’t know how realistic that is, but what kind of freaky for me is that I’m 55, so retirement is in my 10-year plan.”
The Vista Room is located at Burk Hall in Room 401 and open from 11:45 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Reservations are needed in order to dine.