The Student Chef is the core of the culinary program at San Joaquin Delta College. The chef instructor, the students and the teaching assistants run the restaurant, named The Student Chef. It's been around for over 20 years, and under the supervision of Chef John Britto, they were turning out excellent French cuisine at very reasonable prices. When Chef Britto retired a few different chefs took over as instructor with uneven results, but now with the ascension of Chef Berkner (who co-owns Taste Restaurant in Plymouth with his wife) as instructor, the program seems to be back on track. The students respect and admire him and he knows how to cook!
My friend Vincene and I settled on splitting the tempura prawn appetizer with tomato ginger relish and avocado mousse ($3.75). It arrived hot, with a crisp tempura coating. The relish was hand cut into perfect small dice and flavorful with a little kick. The avocado mousse looked so suspiciously like wasabi that I wanted to reach for the nonexistent soy sauce. However I wasn't fooled for long and polished that off too.
For lunch I ordered the lemongrass salmon ($6.25), which came with Japanese eggplant, grilled squash and Thai coconut broth. My request was for goldilocks salmon - just right! Neither overcooked nor slimy, the cooks delivered the goods. V. ordered the lamb chops ($7 ?) and were they ever perfectly cooked - caramelized yet medium rare and tender. She let me have one and I was in heaven!
We also split the dessert, an mousse trio. Two out of three of the items were excellent, and that ain't bad.
The menu changes every three weeks, which I think is great. The students all get a chance to master new techniques and master the menu. The service in the dining room is a little uneven but it's to be expected. When I had my turn as a server I was a real disaster at first. Luckily I have a since of humor! Once I soaked a tablecloth with a tray of glasses of ice water - luckily the diners mostly escaped. I goofed up royally on this one couple that ate at the Student Chef regularly, so when they came back again I'm sure they hoped to escape me. The look of fear on the man's eyes when he saw me coming was worth it all. However, I took much better care of them that time and all was pretty much well.
Finally, the Student Chef is the best deal in gourmet dining in town. They're open Tuesday and Wednesday, 11 am to 12:30 pm during the semester. Check the delta college website for information. Buon appetito!