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Central Carolina Culinary Institute - Tasting Menu, story 3

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Click to enlarge,  The Central Carolina Culinary Institute serves food at its three student-run cafes.

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The Central Carolina Culinary Institute serves food at its three student-run cafes.

03.03.2017Admin, Faculty & StaffCollege & CommunityCollege General

SANFORD - Anyone can get a taste of the Central Carolina Culinary Institute at student-run cafes reflecting each location's specialty. Since meals are prepared as part of students' culinary education, cafes offer a different experience from traditional restaurants.

Neha Shah, a regular at the Natural Chef Cafe in Pittsboro, often looks through the windows to watch students work under Chef Gregg Hamm's supervision. "I keep in mind that they're in training mode," she says.

In Chatham County

Central Carolina Culinary Institute's flagship restaurant, Natural Chef Cafe, specializes in farm-to-table cuisine with a set menu developed and prepared twice a week by culinary students. Each features an appetizer, entree and dessert, though the styles vary widely depending on which ingredients are in season.

The prix fixe menu is $7 and, as part of the location's emphasis on healthy cuisine, gluten-free and vegetarian options are available.

Natural Chef Cafe is open most Tuesdays and Wednesdays during the instructional year from noon to 1 p.m. at the Sustainable Building, 764 West St., Pittsboro. Cash only. Reservations are encouraged and can be made by calling at 919-545-8076. Menus are posted at

In Harnett County

Not surprisingly, the Barbecue Academy and its Dunn Center Cafe feature The Dunn BBQ "Samich," Carolina pulled pork with slaw, though they occasionally spice it up with a variation like their jerk-seasoned pulled pork topped with fresh pineapple salsa. The menu always includes two or three other main dishes, including fresh soups or salads, as well as a few sides and desserts.

Main dishes are usually $6 or less and often come with a side -- dishes ranging from the familiar, Baked Beans, to more exotic creations like Roasted Brussel Sprouts and Grapes.

Dunn Center Cafe is open most Thursdays during the instructional year for lunch at 610 E. Johnson St., Dunn. Cash only.

In Lee County

Located in the Lee Main Campus Student Center, Cougar Cafe enjoys a large student and faculty following, but serves the general public as well with a regular short-order menu and daily specials.

Morning selections include breakfast plates and biscuits for $3 or less. Lunch combines a regular menu of popular salads, sandwiches and sides with a daily special, each for $5. Recent specials included Fish Tacos, Cream of Broccoli Soup with Side Salad, Fried Rice with Egg Rolls, Chicken and Dumplings, and Pumpkin Gnocchi with Bacon Alfredo Sauce.

Cougar Cafe is open most Mondays through Thursdays during the instructional year for breakfast from 9 to 10 a.m. and lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at 1105 Kelly Drive, Sanford. Cash only. Daily specials and dates when the cafe is closed are posted at