By Mary Elizabeth Dial, Staff Correspondent
The Beautiful Rainbow Café officially commenced business in the Gadsden Public Library on Feb. 14. At 11 a.m., the doors opened for the restaurant’s first lunch rush.
Beautiful Rainbow Catering Co. and Garden began serving local young men with special needs three years ago as a summer and after-school program. Students learned valuable culinary skills, such as safe food preparation and sustainable gardening, which they could use in the future to find employment in the food service industry. Now, it seems the future has arrived.
The idea for the café came from Beautiful Rainbow director Chip Rowan. In July 2016, the program partnered with the Gadsden Public Library and got to work. By opening day, the café had been decked out with a kitchen behind the counter, a business office and plenty of seating for diners. It also has a speaker system for music, and original artwork by members of the Beautiful Rainbow program adorns the walls.
The café is situated next to the fiction section of the library, so patrons can take a break from their reading or studying to grab lunch, but sits behind a glass wall so its lively energy does not disturb the quiet.
At the Beautiful Rainbow Café these young men use the skills they learned in the program and combine them with business experience. The young men from Beautiful Rainbow run the show, along with a few of their teachers. In addition to cooking, they must take orders and serve food.
“I’m excited, but I’m nervous,” head cashier David Hodges said just before the grand opening. His job involves taking orders and handling cash transactions, and while he and other program participants have Rowan and their teachers to help them, the practice they have gotten in the weeks leading up to the café’s opening have given them confidence in their skills.
New skills, however, aren’t the only benefits to the young men of Beautiful Rainbow.
“Instead of these guys getting a certificate of attendance, they’ll get a real diploma,” said child count specialist Tammy McDuffie.
The café is funded by the Gadsden Public School system and partners with local businesses like King’s Olive Oil and Back Forty Brewery, but its profits will go toward keeping the café itself running.