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JJ’s pancake breakfast helps Centralia SMART program

Posted on Friday, January 25, 2019 at 6:18 am

It was fun, said Blaine Arp, a cook at JJ’s Cafe in Centralia.

“It was a relief, they were very helpful,” said JJ’s waitress Erica Bourgeois, “It was funny too.”

Those were a few of the participants’ comments from the January 5 all you can eat pancake breakfast at JJ’s Cafe on Centralia’s Allen Street.

The event was held to raise funds for the town’s SMART program.

Kitchen action at JJ's during the SMART pancake breakfast.

Kitchen action at JJ’s during the SMART pancake breakfast.

Sara Paben, who owns and operates the restaurant with her husband Rob, said they used at least 10 gallons of pancake batter for the event and served over 200 people. “And we had a few to-go orders as well,” she said.

“The SMART kids were a big help in this,” Paben said. “It’s been amazing. They cooked pancakes on a pair of electric grills, they washed dishes, filled drinks and waited tables.” She said at least 12 of the students spent the morning working at the restaurant, doing different jobs in one-hour intervals.

“It gave them some pretty good real-world experience in the restaurant world. They got to communicate with customers in a high-volume situation, telling people about the menus as well as the SMART program. They were working right alongside our staff cooks; Mike Long, Brooke McClure, Blaine Arp and myself,” Paben said. “Usually we just have two cooks Saturday mornings.”

She said they knew from advance ticket sales it would be a big event.
“Getting that estimate ahead of time is really important in planning one of these things,” Paben, who had previously done something similar for Columbia school teachers in their Columba location said.

“SMART is a very important program, for the children and the community,” Paben said. “I was glad to do it.

Lisa Matthiesen said the event raised almost $1,200 for the program which helps students with homework and enrichment activities. SMART stands for Students and Mentors Achieving Responsibility Together.