The Backstreet Café 5-star dining in the KMC

Sheri Byrd, Story and photos
Kaiserslautern American

***image1***The Backstreet Café is an exclusive, invitation-only 5-star dining experience. Few KMC residents realize this quality restaurant exists on Vogelweh, tucked in to the corner of an otherwise well-used facility.

The menu is limited, but the quality is unsurpassed in this area.
A recent lunch menu included stuffed mushroom appetizers, crisp salad of the freshest ingredients, mouth-watering French onion soup, diner’s choice of succulent spiced roast beef with potatoes or vegetarian stuffed baked peppers, and dessert of the moistest carrot cake on the continent, bursting with flavor and delicately accented with walnuts and just the right amount of orange zest.

“The stuffed peppers were very well seasoned and delicious,” said Birgit Baldwin, 435th Services Squadron deputy commander and one of the café’s12 invited guests June 3. “These were clearly prepared with great skill and care. Sometimes the vegetarian choices at restaurants seem to be an afterthought, but not here.”

The service is top-notch, with ever-present, but unobtrusive wait staff hovering just out of ear-shot, ready to respond to each guest’s every nuance of body language – courses cleared with precise timing, water and iced tea perpetually charged.

***image2***What diners will not find available at The Backstreet Café are any of the popular European wines, nor any alcohol at all.

The Backstreet Café at Kaiserslautern American High School is open only one day each year, for only 12 invited guests who serve as customers for Jane Varalli’s Culinary Arts practical final exam.
The course is the ProStart packaged curriculum from the National Restaurant Association Education Foundation, and is designed to “encourage high school students to consider careers in the restaurant and foodservice industry.”

Students who complete two years of the course finish with a professional certificate allowing them to go directly to work in the restaurant industry, earn credit toward a degree from many culinary schools, and obtain eligibility for some professional culinary scholarships.

Of the 11 students in this year’s class, one will be attending a professional culinary institute, and one will be inheriting a restaurant in Norway.

“I learned so much about managing and equipment, not just cooking,” said Norwegian sophomore Jon Jacobsen. “But I really liked learning the knife skills.”

Ms. Varalli said that the students who take this course must first complete other family and consumer science courses.

“These students want to be here,” she said. “They are amazingly eager to learn and will often volunteer their own time to finish a project or help out in this one. They have been a joy to teach.”

***image3***The class meets three hours every other day for the entire school year. Skills covered include everything involved in a restaurant business, from preparation and nutrition, to cooking and presentation, to waiting tables and finances.

“I applied what I learned in this class with an internship at the Ramstein Rhineland Inn,” said senior Narine Ramlakhan, a deaf student speaking through a sign language interpreter. These experiences gained him acceptance to the culinary institute at Northern Virginia Community College in Alexandria, Va., next fall.

“Teaching this class has been the highlight of my teaching career,” said Ms. Varalli.
“If you are ever lucky enough to receive an invitation to the Backstreet Café, don’t miss it,” said Staff Sgt. Demarrio Spence, AFN radio morning disc jockey. “I can’t stop thinking about the delicious roast beef.”