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FSCJ opens new restaurant in downtown Jacksonville

Students, graduates run 20West Cafe

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Downtown Jacksonville has a new restaurant, and Florida State College at Jacksonville graduates and students are running the kitchen.

The restaurant, 20West Cafe, opened up on West Adams Street nearly two months ago. The restaurant is all about fresh farm to table creative food that will always keep you guessing.

FSCJ has a reputation when it comes to its culinary department. Now you can taste and see for yourself. The restaurant is open for business and you see the creativity when you walk through the door of 20West Cafe.

"They walk in and they go, 'Whoa, this is awesome,'" said general manager Rick McDonald.

McDonald is a former teacher at the college. The other workers -- from the head chef to hostesses -- are either graduates or students.

"Everyone has a passion for it and when someone has a passion it's easy to lead them," said head chef Brett Cromer, who runs the kitchen.

Cromer said he loves to see students experiment and create something delicious.

"That's what keeps me in the kitchen is being creative, getting to play around with food, make new foods," Cromer said. "I like to give everyone the opportunity, have everyone here to have the same experience."

Cauliflower steak, Greek grouper, coffee-rubbed salmon and purple rice grits are just some of the choices with unique flavor combinations. Students are told to make something creative and then get the chance to make it a hit.

FSCJ culinary intern Sasha Greenwald now has a secret sauce on the menu.

"Chef told me, 'Sasha can you make me a tzatziki sauce.' So I did," Greenwald said. "It's typical Israeli, less typical American. There are fresh ingredients. That's what makes it shine."

News4Jax asked Greenwald what she was doing next and she said, "I'm going to Disney World."

She was hired to work at one of the restaurants in Orlando, which she said was a great honor and opportunity.

The cafe is open Monday through Friday for breakfast and lunch. The menu is always changing based on what's fresh and what the chefs come up with that's tasty. 

One thing that doesn't change is the rules in the kitchen. Cromer said food safety and kitchen cleanliness always come first.

"It's extremely easy for us," Cromer said. "Everybody in here has been through food safety and sanitation. Everyone here is actually a food safety manager. They've all passed the tests to be able to handle it."

When the culinary department moved to the FSCJ Downtown Campus, it was an opportunity to put the students to work and invest in the business of downtown Jacksonville.

"Ordering, purchasing, marketing -- we have hospitality interns that started our Facebook, Twitter and all those thing that I don't know anything about," McDonald said.

The college's restaurant is not only a part of the downtown revitalization, it's a first for FSCJ.

About the Author:

Anchor on The Morning Show team and reporter specializing on health issues.