Sitting on the historic Horseshoe, it is passed by students and faculty every day. Many learn its name during University 101, on a walk on the Horseshoe or on an admitted student weekend, but few go beyond that. What is McCutchen House?
The restaurant, located in a historic pre-Civil War house, offers teaching opportunities to the hotel, restaurant and tourism management students. Students take several courses and learn about the front-of-house and back-of-house operations in a restaurant.
Director of McCutchen House George Hendry said it offers something quite unique.
"There are thousands of hospitality colleges out there, but we want to be a little different," Hendry said. "Everybody's got a restaurant to run, but nobody's got this historic, beautiful old building on the Horseshoe."
Students start off in Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management (HRTM) 270, where they learn how to use the Marriott Kitchen in the Close-Hipp building and the "basics of food production" with an emphasis on storage, preparation, merchandising and menu-planning.
From there, students move onto HRTM 370, where they learn how to manage and operate a restaurant. Chris Knezevich, one of the instructors of HRTM, said this class is important in preparing students for the real world.
"It's an entire restaurant experience. We lecture for an hour in the mornings, and then they have a schedule, and each week they do a little something different," Knezevich said. "After we're done with lecture, they'll break out in the restaurant, and they get it set up."
Students do most of the prep and work for the restaurant, while Knezevich oversees and guides.
Ashlyn Ooi, a fourth-year hospitality management student, said students take on different roles during HRTM 370, such as being cook, server, front-of-the-house manager and back-of-the-house manager.
Ooi, who works as an intern inside McCutchen House as a part of HRTM 495, said COVID-19 made her miss out on different parts of the class.
"[Once school closed], we had to figure out how to do these assignments. It was kind of difficult at first," Ooi said. "It did feel kind of like we missed out on some things. Like, for my semester, I never got to be a server or the back-of-house manager. I was only ever a cook and also the front-of-house manager."
COVID-19 has severely limited McCutchen House capabilities, such as the Culinary Institute, which was for adults who wanted to hone their skills or learn how to cook in a commercial setting, or Chef Du Jour classes, the Saturday morning special topic classes, according to Hendry.
The restaurant is now closed to the general public, with reservations only being offered to students, faculty and staff, Ooi said.
Despite the setbacks from COVID-19, students have much to be excited and proud about with their classes. Knezevich said even though he teaches them how to cook and manage a restaurant, hospitality skills are ones you can use anywhere.
"The skills [students] learn here, they can take no matter where they go, even if they don't plan on being restaurant managers," Knezevich said. "Skills like being able to multitask tables, being able to face adversity and being able to handle a lot of things under pressure."
The restaurant is now rolling out grab-and-go services for students to bolster their classes during COVID-19, where students can use Carolina Cash.
USC students, faculty and staff can go online to the McCutchen House website to make a reservation for their next fine dining experience.