The American River College Oak Cafe bakery, located in the award-winning culinary arts department, offers a wide range of delightful comestibles. Student-run, the bakery provides a venue by which those students can practice their skills and showcase their talents.
Students meet on Monday night – production night – when they decide what goods they will prepare for the bakery the following week.
New products are introduced often, but there are weekly staples available for those patrons who stop by regularly. “If we get a really good response to it, we maybe won’t make it the following week, but the next week,” said culinary arts student Jeff Wagner.
The trail mix cookie, a bakery staple, is a subtly sweet conglomeration of various nuts, seeds and dried fruits. The cookie has a perfect bite; there is just enough pressure in the chew, and the cookie holds together beautifully considering it is packed with so many mix-ins.
Students also serve up savory quiches, pizzas, sandwiches and breads, like the delectable florentine puff – a feta and spinach-filled mini-loaf, best nuked for 30 seconds in the thoughtfully provided microwave – and enjoyed at one of several outside tables.
Patrons may be disappointed to find some of the most delicious offerings are seasonal – and that those treats go quickly. Items in abundance one day may be gone the next. Mexican “Oreos,” a deliciously cinnamon-spiced Mexican chocolate adaptation of the classic, with soft wafers and buttercream filling – not overly sweet, but leaded enough to lend a nice buzz – are typically baked the week of Halloween exclusively.
Prices range from $1 for a cookie to $6 for a sandwich, with some snacky items, like baja popcorn, for around $3. “We try and keep our costs really low so college students can afford it,” said Wagner. “They get away with the some of the lower prices because of the free labor, because it’s one of our classes.” Bakery proceeds cover the lab supply costs.
Although the Los Rios Community College District signed a contract granting Aramark the exclusive right to operate the Retail Food Service Program on all LRCCD campuses in 2008, there is an exception for the Oak Cafe and the bakery because they are both curriculum driven. “We sell to the public as an open laboratory for students to gain real world experience in production and customer service,” said culinary arts and hospitality management department chair Brian Knirk in an email to The Current.
The Oak Cafe bakery is open 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., Wednesday through Friday.