COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Columbus City School students are taking their skills from the classroom and putting them to the test at a special cafe.

The Columbus Downtown Culinary Cafe is back in action after time off due to the pandemic. The dining room reopened this week for district employees, but the goal is to invite everyone in for lunch.

The lunch rush is back at Downtown Columbus High School, home to the Columbus Downtown Culinary Café, churning out burgers and lunch specials all made by Columbus City Schools culinary students.

“This is my very first time doing something like this in school,” said Onesti Motley, a member of the student-run café. “At first, I didn’t know if I was going to like it. It was just, like, ‘Oh, something to do other than regular school,’ but I really enjoy it.”

The cafe is cash-only and open Tuesdays and Thursdays for lunch.

“And then once we pass the district test, then we’ll be open to the public,” said Dan Bandman, one of three culinary instructors.

Students learn food safety, the basics of cooking, and earn their ServSafe certifications, Bandman said. It’s also important for Bandman to provide real-life experiences.

“This is school, and there’s exams, and there’s finals and there’s bookwork, so it’s a balance,” he said. “You get to do hands-on, you get to have that fun stuff, but you have to learn the foundations first.”

Motley said the cafe and the program have inspired her and are valuable to her future.

“I like the serving and I like taking the orders, too,” she said. “I prefer taking orders over serving, honestly, because then I don’t have to worry about whose order goes to who but serving is really fun! I like talking to the people.”

The program is 12 weeks long for students, so there will be times when the cafe will close to train the new recruits.

Bandman hopes to open officially to the public in the next couple of weeks.