Hilltop Cafe introduces pastries to observe Hispanic Heritage month


Nanditha Nagavishnu

Senior Samantha Harrington cuts open Italian cream puffs to fill them with sweet cream during her Practicum Culinary class. “I love Italian food,” Harrington said. “I worked at an Italian restaurant over the summer and gained all the knowledge needed for [the Italian menu].” Hilltop Cafe is a student run cafeteria offering cuisines from around the world as well as seasonal menus.

Hilltop Cafe is celebrating National Hispanic Heritage month by offering traditional pastries before and after school. These include sopapillas, churros, alfajores and a Mexican sweet beverage called horchata.

The cafe mainly focuses on their seasonal and global cuisine menus that students cook and serve during lunch periods, augmented with standard smoothies and muffins before and after school. The pastries were a last minute addition to observe Hispanic recipes during the month, which ends on Oct. 15.

“We change menus every two weeks,” culinary teacher Amanda Hill said, who administers the largely student-run cafe. “That way, we get all of the different global cuisines in there and all the students menus can get shown”

Students at the level of practicum in culinary arts are each expected to research and completely design a menu for their choice of global cuisine. Students spend the first month of the school year working on this, and by the time Hilltop Cafe opens for the year, the staff has a reliable idea of when their menus go up and the preparations waiting for each.

“We try to keep it as traditional as possible, since a lot of recipes are Americanized when they come over here,” Hill said. “We want to try and [abide by] those traditional roots to the best that we can. For example, they found out how we think lamb is so popular in Greek cuisine when really, chicken is one of their most popular products. So, we’re including it in our Greek menu.”

The way food is presented, described and the traditionally used ingredients in a dish are all considered when preparing a menu item. Senior Samantha Harrington chose to do an Italian menu this year after working at Concetta’s Italian Kitchen over the summer. Harrington serves as the head chef while her menu is in service, and her experience at the restaurant helped her fulfill the role.

“It’s a lot easier for me now since I know what I’m doing,” Harrington said. “It’s kind of hard to explain, but obviously you wouldn’t serve [a dish] just purposeless on a plate; you want to make it look as authentic as possible to the standards of the culture. It depends on the research and what region the food comes from.”

Since only five students are in the practicum class, the cafe has reliable seasonal menus that are brought back every year to fill the gaps. Mexican (current menu), Greek, Chinese and Poylesian menus are on schedule for this year. Senior Mylee Devore’s frequent visits to Hawaiian Bros inspired her to create the Polynesian menu.

“I love the flavor combinations of Polynesian food, and over here in Prosper we don’t have too many Polynesian restaurants,” Devore said. “I thought it would be fun to bring that culture over here for a few weeks [through the menu]. My step-grandfather grew up in Hawaii; when I go over to their house they occasionally have Polynesian food and it’s delicious.”

Due to legal guidelines, the cafe is not allowed to cater to students during lunch periods. Most of their revenue and funding comes from teachers who order their lunches through the cafe. The global menus allow staff to try food from cuisines that they might not actively seek out.

“It’s convenient,” CTE teacher Shannon Slade said, who often buys lunch from Hilltop Cafe. “For a reasonable price, you get to try food that isn’t your norm–when they have the Irish menu, the Indian menu, things like that. The [cooking] is pretty high-level, quality you feel like you’d get in a restaurant.”

You can place online orders on their website: hilltop-cafe.square.site