Insider Scoop On The Hatter’s Cafe


Hope Thomas and Lilly Calipa

As Danbury High School quickly approaches their last day of school, school spirit is rising as students continue to make favorable memories from the year. During the second semester, one of the most liked activities amongst the students is visiting the Hatter’s Cafe. The Hatter’s Cafe is a restaurant located inside the school. The restaurant is completely run by students including serving, sanitation, and cooking. Despite many students and teachers visiting the Hatter’s Cafe over the course of their high school career, very few students understand how the restaurant operates. Fortunately, we got to meet with students part of the Cafe who know the behind the scenes details. 

While dining at the Hatter’s Cafe is extremely enjoyable, there are many months spent in preparation for the restaurant to function. The students working the Cafe are part of the Culinary Arts & Training I course, a class that does not require any prerequisites. However, if someone wants to take Culinary Arts & Training II, they need to have taken Culinary Arts & Training I. Mariam Bhavnagarwala, a worker at the Hatter’s Cafe explains, “All of semester one is spent learning how to keep clean, stay safe, and learn how to cook.” This demonstrates that students do not need to have extensive knowledge of cooking before working at the Hatter’s Cafe! Many months are spent in the beginning of the year preparing students as cooks and in customer service. 

The structure of this elective is very different from other classes. Marcella Ramos, a senior worker at the Hatter’s Cafe shares, “We really don’t have any homework. In the first semester of the class, we do more ‘book’ work. Around February is when the Hatters Cafe opens, so we don’t get any homework or tests at all. We get graded on knowledge and how we do stuff.” The months before the Cafe opens, students are able to choose what position or job they want, whether it is working in the kitchen or the dining area. They are able to rotate jobs until they pick the one they enjoy the most. For example, preparation cooks help ensure that food is properly stored and prepared, while other students wait or work the to-go register. 

Being served at the Hatter’s Cafe is an enjoyable and delicious experience. Like all other restaurants, the cooking process is just as important as the delivery. The kitchen has many different areas that need to be tended to and worked from. The warming table lets the cooks know what has been ordered as the customers are being helped. There is also a bread table where toast is selected, and a fryer where the popular home fries are cooked. French toast and pancakes are cooked on the low griddle, while eggs are cooked and buns are toasted on the high griddle. 

One of the most important parts of working at the Hatter’s Cafe is the sanitization process. Many people may suspect the Cafe to be unsanitary, but the workers take pride in making sure everything is clean and sanitized throughout the day. The first thing all students do is wash their hands. After that is done, they put on clean aprons and have an option of gloves as well. They also separate foods in the kitchen to avoid any sort of contamination or foodborne illnesses. 

As a worker, there are many perks that come with working at the Hatter’s Cafe. Ramos expresses, “I decided to be a waitress this year because you actually get tips that you are allowed to keep.” A lot of students are unaware that waiters and waitresses actually make money while fulfilling their Family and Consumer Science credit. Marcella Ramos mentioned that she loves interacting with others, and being a waiter always allows her to do so. Additionally, waiters are allowed to cook food for themselves without needing to pay for ingredients. The students enjoy being able to routinely see their friends and teachers as they come to dine at the Cafe. 

Despite the many perks of this class, there are a decent amount of hurdles students are expected to overcome each day. Mariam Bhavnagarwala confesses, “The stress of having a lot of students come in that need to get their food at a certain time so they can finish eating before the block ends is hard.” Unlike a regular restaurant, the Cafe is constrained by the school bell to conduct orders, cook food, serve food, and clean the restaurant before the next period. One of the greatest challenges occurs when students are absent, decreasing the amount of workers. As the class is completely based on teamwork, a person missing can completely disorient the procedure the students normally follow. During each period, there is a time where students cannot order any more food to ensure all of the food can be cooked in time. The fast-paced environment of the restaurant requires students to be well-rounded so they can fill the roles of any missing students. This is why semester one focuses on teaching students how to properly complete any role necessary for the Cafe to operate.

Ultimately, the Hatter’s Cafe is one of the most unique experiences that Danbury High School offers. To students who take the class, it teaches life skills like cooking, performing under stressful conditions, problem solving, and serving others. To those who get to experience the Cafe, it provides a fun environment to reward students for their hard work all year long. They treat their customers with respect, and always put their best effort in creating enjoyable experiences. The Hatter’s Herald truly commends the Hatter’s Cafe on their work, as we rate them with five stars in our book.