BEACHWOOD, Ohio — At an early age, Samarra Sharpley found both confidence and comfort in the kitchen.
"Both my grandmas taught me how to cook, and I cook every night for my family. I’m really into soul food, so shrimp and grits are a must-have, collard greens, mac and cheese," said Sharpley.
The Solon High School senior is one of two dozen teens sharpening their culinary skills at the Beachwood Bistro.
"This is going to prepare me for my future career," said Sharpley.
Every aspect of the public restaurant inside Beachwood High School is run by students.
"At first, I was like this is crazy, is this how a restaurant really is," said Sharpley.
"It's just hard to believe that, you know, a place like this is available to us," said Mayfield High School senior Aiden Watts. "You know, it's just a great place and great environment to be in."
The two-year, hands-on program at Beachwood High School focuses on everything from food safety and preparation practices to restaurant management and culinary math.
"So, it's not just you know, let's go in the back and play with food," said Stephanie Czech, culinary instructor.
Czech said they have a wait list of students every year.
"The opportunities that they have within our program and what we're teaching them is really going to take them far," said Czech.
In their senior year, both Sharpley and Watts are working in kitchens outside of school.
"So, everything that we're teaching them they're taking out into the real world and really seeing that what you're learning here applies to what you're doing today at your shift," said Czech.
Junior Culinary Instructor Kortez Wilson was familiar with the program before taking the job in the district.
"Matter of fact, I actually employed students from this program before I was hired here," said Wilson.
Wilson calls the bistro the crown jewel of Beachwood, which often catches customers by surprise.
"They walk in and they're in awe because they've never seen this inside of a high school," said Wilson.
Wilson said the service and quality here are second to none.
"They're doing better than most adults that are being hired into the industry," said Wilson.
The student’s time in the kitchen can earn them college credits, scholarships, and an industry-recognized certificate.
"We learned the basic building blocks, the nutritional facts about food, so it's not all about cooking," said Sharpley.
If you’d like to experience the Beachwood Bistro for yourself, it is open Wednesday through Friday from 11 a.m. until 12:30 p.m.
The last seating is at 12:15 p.m. and carry-out is available.