Mark Bernhard, culinary arts associate degree student, working in the Clist Café.

Looking for a new place to eat? Technical College of the Lowcountry’s Culinary Institute of the South just added two more options to Bluffton’s food scene.

The Bistro and Clist Café recently opened at the 30,000-square-foot institute located at 1 Venture Drive in Buckwalter Place.

The Clist Café offers a variety of “grab-and-go” items including breads, pastries, cakes, soups and sandwiches – made by students in culinary and pastry classes onsite – along with coffee, teas and more. The café, named for donors and longtime TCL advocates Liz and Todd Clist of Hilton Head Island, offers plenty of outdoor seating.

For those looking for more of a fine-dining experience, The Bistro offers a gourmet three-course lunch in the 24-seat teaching restaurant.

Dishes change each semester and are created, prepared and served by students in advanced classes as part of the culinary arts, baking and pastry, and hospitality curriculum. This month’s menu features shrimp and grits, herb-crusted pork tenderloin with wild rice, and steak with pommes frites.

In essence, both the café and restaurant serve as classrooms that provide a bridge to the real world. These capstone experiences give students invaluable hands-on education.

“Both spaces provide real-world experiences for our students who are learning how to cook, bake, manage a business and interact with customers,” said Chef Miles Huff, dean of the institute.

Baking and Pastry program director Jackie Orak says that working in these environments allows students to put foundational cooking and baking skills together with more advanced entrepreneurial processes. For example, students learn about using point-of-sale systems, food pricing, ordering and inventory management, marketing and even financial analysis.

“This type of experience teaches students how to better handle situations when serving the public and shows them what it is like to own a small business,” Orak said.

Mark Bernhard, who is enrolled in the culinary arts associate degree program, said that working in the café has been his favorite part of the program, especially since he wants to own his own restaurant one day.

“My favorite part is being able to go through the entire process of looking over recipes and understanding how much each thing costs and how to price items on a menu,” Bernhard said.

Learning and working “with all the nice shiny equipment you only see on TV” is just the icing on the cake, he said. 

The Clist Café is open for walk-in patrons from 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday. Visit www.tcl.edu/cafe for the latest updates.

The Bistro currently is open for lunch on Wednesdays and Thursdays by reservation only. The cost is $25 per person and includes a three-course meal and drinks. Call 843-305-8575 to make a reservation. Visit www.tcl.edu/bistro for the most up-to-date information. Menu and hours are subject to change.

Leigh Copeland is the assistant vice president of marketing and public relations for Technical College of the Lowcountry.