Business booming at student run cafe

By Crystal Britt
POPLAR BLUFF, MO (KFVS) - A new chef spices things up the at Mules Cafe.
It's a decades old tradition at the Poplar Bluff School District. 
It seems to be the place where everyone wants to eat.   
"Everybody makes it a point because the food is so good and the service is wonderful," said one customer.
Plus, there's another perk: the price. The entire meal costs just $5; and that's with tax.
"They're served gourmet style which I think is very nice for the price of five dollars," said another customer.
The students running the cafe are in the culinary arts program at the technical career center. They're mostly 11th and 12th graders, many who want to someday work in the restaurant industry.  

"Everyday's a learning experience," said Josh Collins, a senior who wants to be a chef someday.

"This is my last year and I can tell you, I'm going to miss it," said Collins. "Chef Hudlow's been an inspiration in my life.  When I came here I didn't know what I wanted to do.  Now I do."
Chef Aaron Hudlow directs what he calls controlled chaos at the Mules Cafe. 
"These guys put forth the best foot they have everyday," said Hudlow.    
It's not your average lunch here at the cafe.  It's home cooking.  Customers say they appreciate the variety on the menus.
"I went to culinary school in New York City and I've been in the kitchen ever since," said Hudlow. 
He's brought some fine dining experience to the cafe. 

"I'm trying to give these guys experience to things they might no see around town", said Hudlow. "The food's not fancy, but it hopefully is high quality and something they can be proud of when they serve it."

Ihe instructor is also teaching the students a lesson in economics.  It's all about the tips, he calls it the Mules Cafe Savings Plan.
"At the end of the month the students vote whether they would like to divide the money evenly among themselves or save the money," Hudlow said. "If they choose to save it, I match 10%."
Business is picking up.
"Last year a busy day would be 80 guests, now we'll see 150 people on a regular basis," said Hudlow.
It's giving students an experience they'll never forget.  
"This is practice for the real world," said Hudlow.
The Mules Cafe is open to the public every Tuesday and Friday from 11:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m.