LEXINGTON, Ky. — From preparing a three course meal to knife safety, there’s a lot to learn about running a restaurant. The University of Kentucky’s College of Agriculture, Food and Environment is offering students real-world experience, complete with hungry customers.

What You Need To Know

  • Lemon Tree is a student-run restaurant at the University of Kentucky

  • UK chef Bob Perry purchased a flour mill for hands-on teaching opportunity

  • Students rotate jobs and learn the roles for the front and back of the kitchen

Leading the charge is Chef Bob Perry, who has a knack for satisfying your taste buds.

“Stretch the dough out and if you can stretch it without breaking it so you can see through it, you can see the light then you know you’ve developed the gluten,” Perry, chef in residence of dietetics and human nutrition told his students.

Perry does it with the flour mill, purchased with funds from the Kentucky Agricultural Experiment Station, using locally grown wheat to mill into their flour products. 

“Flour, wheat has great flavor, but it dissipates very quickly, so the shorter the time between milling the flour and making the dough, the more flavor you get.”

Since 1982, Perry has been in the restaurant industry, spending the last 15 years of his career at UK.

“Just interacting with the students, every year I’m a year older, every year they’re the same age, it keeps you young,” Perry said.

Perry teaches students involved in Lemon Tree, the college’s student run restaurant that has been around since the 70s.

“We’re learning every day how to communicate with not just our group but also the other groups,” Ashlyn Reed, junior at the University of Kentucky, said. “We’re learning the functions of how to be hospitable every single day and I think that applies everywhere, not just in a kitchen.”

Students involved in Lemon Tree class chopping potatoes for lunch menu. (Spectrum News 1/Erin Wilson)

Students enrolled in Lemon Tree prepare a three course meal, two days a week and rotate between every job in a restaurant, all while using local ingredients.

“The fresher the food is, the more flavor it has, to support the local economy, and support our local farmers and mainly because it just tastes better,” Perry said.

As the program continues to expand, so does the number of local bakeries they provide milling services to.

“One promising variety we work with is called Edison. It’s a wheat from the Northwest and our problem in Kentucky is that wheat grows soft,” Perry said. “Winter wheat flour is food for biscuits and pie crust and baking, not hard wheat for bread, so we’re trying to find a variety to do both.”

So does the need for new varieties of wheat.

“This is really an educational opportunity to teach students about how flour is made, the different wheats we use and the different properties of flour,” Perry said.

Lemon Tree is a capstone class for Dietetics and Hospitality, Management and Tourism. The restaurant is on the second floor of Erickson Hall and serves lunch each Tuesday and Thursday at noon.