Many students studying in UAA’s Cuddy Hall don’t realize that instead of going to the nearest vending machine or cafeteria, they can use their Wolfbucks in the adjoining room. On the other side of the glass door at Lucy’s, students encounter fine dining in a professional atmosphere at an average of $15 per entree.
Lucy’s, a UAA restaurant that provides trained culinary arts students with lab experience, was founded in 1994 with a generous donation from the Cuddy family.
Hospitality professor Riza Brown supervises students in the restaurant. She provides them with a week and a half of extensive training before they go on the job.
Twice a semester, the students enrolled in the class create a menu. Each chef in the bakery comes up with a unique dish and the kitchen collaborates to create “a menu that is seasonal, uses local ingredients, is innovative, but still able to have the products accessible,” Brown said. Then, the students get to work, serving customers two hours per day, Monday-Friday.
Lucy’s is divided into three main sections: the bakery, kitchen and dining room.
“In order for [students] to be successful bakers and chefs, they need to understand the holistic part of owning a restaurant or owning a bakery, and a big part of that is customer service,” Brown said.
To provide feedback to individual students, Lucy’s leaves comment cards on each table so that the customers can comment on the quality of food and service — comments such as “‘make more eye contact’ or ‘speak louder,’” Brown said.
Lucy’s teaches students how to follow the same fine dining protocol as Europe and Australia, Brown says. Students learn to input orders electronically, to communicate with the kitchen and to deal with allergies and other customer concerns in the dining room as well as in the kitchen.
“It’s really beneficial to [students] because it helps them understand the dialogue between what a customer is saying to their servers and what the servers say to them when they come back into the kitchen,” Brown said.
Jaydon Mitchell, a UAA culinary arts alumnus who now works as Brown’s lab assistant, said that Lucy’s was helpful to him when he went through the program.
“It’s a good start into the hospitality industry… it’s a controlled environment so you won’t get as much craziness that you’ll probably get out in the real world,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell’s signature recipe when he worked at Lucy’s as a chef was grilled ostrich with chimichurri.
“If you were to go eat anywhere in town, to get some of this stuff it would be upwards of $50, $60 at least for a dish, because I don’t know where else you’re going to get ostrich here [in Anchorage],” Mitchell said.
Rachel Pride, a culinary arts major and waitress at Lucy’s, said that her signature dish was a sriracha corn salsa, which went with one of their salads.
“Cooking is not just an art, it’s a science… I think I’ve learned just try your best. Try to get it right the first time — you’re not going to get it right the first time, but practice is important,” Pride said.
Lucy’s is a nonprofit. All of the proceeds from dining sales go to purchasing new ingredients, and tips earned by the students are put towards purchasing a field trip for students to a restaurant in Anchorage, such as the Crow’s Nest.
“Many of [the students] have never set foot in a fine dining restaurant, so it’s a really good experience,” Brown said.
Pride recommended the UAA culinary arts program to those who are interested in the restaurant industry.
“If you have a passion for cooking, you should try to learn a few things from UAA,” Pride said.
Lucy’s is open from 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m., Tuesday-Friday. The last seating is at 12:30 p.m. Currently, Lucy’s accepts reservations or limited walk-ins and plans to introduce carry-out later in the semester. They also have a bakery cart outside the restaurant on Wednesdays and Thursdays from 9-11 a.m.