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Student-run Bistro 81 turns culinary curiosity into work experience

Chef Joe Schmeltzer is familiar, you might say, with the culinary arts program operated out of Copley High School. Very familiar.

He was a student in the program, and he came back to Copley High School to take charge of the program 27 years ago. The chef has seen many changes during that time, in both the field and the educational program.

The culinary program started in 1978 as part of the launch of the Four Cities Educational Compact. It teaches high school students from the Copley-Fairlawn, Barberton, Norton and Wadsworth school districts about the many aspects of running a restaurant. The main teaching tool is Bistro 81 at Ridgewood, which is open to the public on Thursdays and Fridays in Copley High School. 

The restaurant itself has been in existence for some time, Schmeltzer said. It derives its name from its classroom number.