On the second floor of the International Culinary Center in Campbell sits the Monte Bello room.
The 24-seat, makeshift dining room serves lunch daily and dinner on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
The catch is that you have to know someone affiliated with the school in order to get invited to enjoy the multi-course meals that are prepared by the culinary students.
Fortunately, Bruce McCann, president of the culinary school, provided just that opportunity last week for my husband and I to experience dinner there.
The culinary school doesn’t have a license to operate a full-blown restaurant on the premises. But administrators wanted to give students the experience of cooking for real diners. So, they came up with this concept, in which invited guests can partake of a meal for free. At the end of the meal, you’re asked to fill out a detailed questionnaire that ranks the taste, presentation, flavors and cooking of each dish so that the students can get feedback from the experience. Though it’s not required, you also can make a donation of any amount that will be donated to the student scholarship fund. Tips also are appreciated, as your waiter is not a student but an actual professional server.
For dinner, seating begins at 8 p.m., as the students arrive at 6 p.m. to begin prepping for that evening’s menu.
When you are seated, you’ll get a pencil and questionnaire, as well as a printed menu. There’s always a choice of entrees, at least one of which is vegetarian. Depending upon how many students are working that night, you might also get a choice of appetizers and desserts.