Bernie’s Place: Lawrence Township students run full-service restaurant


LAWRENCE, Ind. –There’s a restaurant on Indy’s northeast side that’s completely run by high school students.

Bernie’s Place is now open and serving up more than just delicious food. It’s teaching local teens about culinary arts.

For Tashaun Coleman, this bustling restaurant is one of the highlights of his senior year.

“I like having conversations, I’m a conversation person,” said Coleman, a senior at Lawrence Central High School when asked about why he likes to be a server at Bernie’s Place.

Coleman is one of the more than 50 students who work here. It’s part of their curriculum in the culinary arts program, they enroll in. While Coleman is still not set on becoming a Chef, the possibility is out there.

“If this is your pathway you want to go, it gets you early access to what you’re going to do,” Coleman added.

The student-run restaurant can be found in the McKenzie Career Center in Lawrence Township schools.

Thursday was opening day and it was one that Gracie Sahm has been looking forward to for quite some time.

“Last year we were closed because we were on a limited schedule with the students,” Sahm added.

Sahm is the Instructor of the program. On the days the restaurant is closed, her students take part in labs.  Learning every position, it takes to keep the restaurant open and running, from the kitchen to the cashier.

“They’re learning all of the chef skills, the management parts, and things like that,” said Sahm.

After completing the program, students can receive certificates and college credit, hoping they’ll seek a career in culinary arts. This comes at a time when there’s a shortage of workers in the service industry. Sahm says her students are doing their part to help.

“Almost all of my students are employed in the restaurant industry,” said Sahm, “They’re doing their best to fill the shortages.”

Serving up quality food and an education, creating the perfect entrée of life skills that these students can use, outside the classroom. Or in this case, the restaurant.

“If you’re not having fun with it, why are you doing it?” asked Coleman.

Bernie’s Place is open at the McKenzie Career Center for lunch on Thursday and Fridays from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m.

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