Christian LaRoche of Deerfield works with Kaitlyn Mercier of Manchester, both culinary arts students at Lakes Region Community College, at the trial-run day of the Shaker Table restaurant at Shaker Village in Canterbury Thursday. (DAN SEUFERT/Union Leader Correspondent)
CANTERBURY — Faculty from the Lakes Region Community College and employees of Canterbury Shaker Village had the first lunch at the trial run of the Shaker Table restaurant Thursday.
The restaurant opens to the public Oct. 1. It is in an old kitchen in one of the sections of Shaker Village's main buildings originally designed for culinary education, said Funi Burdick, the village's executive director.
The three-story section of the building has another kitchen in the basement, a large dining room upstairs, and a full cooking area with a dining room in the main section. It was used a decade ago by culinary students from other schools, Burdick said.
Last year, Burdick heard that the culinary arts students from LRCC were looking for a new home. The college's 90 culinary students, who study for associate's degrees in three areas of concentration over two to three years, desperately needed a new kitchen and dining room, culinary arts professor Pat Hall said.
The program had been using a kitchen in the Belmont Mill until they were forced to leave in January. Since then, they've been using area school cafeterias for their class work.
Burdick reached out to Hall and the college.
"Our goal was not just to lease out the space to some restaurant, we were looking for someone to use that area for educational purposes as well, as education is part of our mission," Burdick said.
"They add a lot to the village, especially because they bring another age group here," she said. "It's great to see fresh young kids around."
Hall said the feeling is mutual.
"It's perfect for us here," he said. "Their mission is education, and our mission is education. It's a great fit."
In fact, the partnership of the school and the village — the college has signed a two-year lease — has added another dimension to the college's culinary programs, Hall said. The Shakers taught the concept of "farm-to-table," or self-sustaining food systems in which little or no food stock was needed from outside sources.
Teachers and students are hoping to replicate that tradition by using locally grown beef and other animal products, as well as food from local farmer's markets, Halls said.
And there will be a lot of collaboration in the future between the village and the students, Burdick said, as there was at a recent event the students catered at the village.
The restaurant will be open Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. all year long, though it will close for a school break in December.
"You'll be able to get a full-course meal for nine bucks," Hall said.
On the menu at a test run Thursday were chicken fricassee, seafood bouillabaisse, and balsamic demi glace, among other items. Kaitlyn Mercier of Manchester and Christian LaRoche of Deerfield were among several students cooking the sumptuous meals.
"We love the new facility; it's such a huge kitchen!" Mercier said.
"The atmosphere is great, and we love what we've seen of our new clientele," LaRoche said. "It's like we finally have a home here."