Photo credit: Savannah Reeves

As the Fall semester begins to wind down, Epicurean Society members begin to wind down as well. While members begin the process of preparing for the next semester, we still had one more learning opportunity in our last outing for the semester. However, this outing was a little more different than normal, as it was located right on UNLV campus. Rebel Grounds is located right in Hospitality Hall, home for the William F. Harrah College of Hospitality. While they primarily offer coffee and drinks, they also have a selection of food and pastries as well. Rebel Grounds is a café run entirely by students, with the majority of their offerings made in-house. Anything else they offer is sourced locally, such as the coffee from Mothership Coffee Roasters. The Rebel Grounds team invited us out to learn about their operation and a better understanding of what goes on behind the scenes. 

To begin our experience, we received a tour of the back of house operation behind Rebel Grounds. The Rebel Grounds kitchen is actually located outside of Hospitality Hall in the original BEH building right behind it. Students work early mornings throughout the week to prep food for Rebel Grounds. They’ll prepare anything from breakfast sandwiches, hummus, or even their homemade syrups for drinks. All ingredients are locally sourced, inventoried and ordered all by the students. The Rebel Grounds team is also constantly coming up with new offerings, whether is a new drink or a new food item for the menu. At the time, they were working on flatbread pizzas as a new menu item. Epicurean members had the opportunity to see a back of house operation from a student’s perspective and gain an in-depth understanding on how the operation is run. Being able to see how a fellow student operates a business such as this really helps put into perspective that other students can do it too. 

For the second half of our Rebel Grounds outing, we got to see what the front of house operation was like. Here, we separated into groups to have a more intimate of experience of all areas of the front of house. One area of the front of house was the pastry counter, as they call it. There is a large pastry display case that holds anything from chocolate croissants to muffins and yogurt parfaits to hummus bowls. One of the more popular offerings are their sandwiches. Specifically, the Chipotle Rebel or the Monte Sando. Today, we learned how Rebel Grounds prepares their Monty Sando, a grilled ham and cheese sandwich. The sandwiches are prepped daily in the Rebel Grounds kitchen and are brought over to the café. As a sandwich is ordered, it’s taken out and toasted in their oven behind the counter. It is then sliced, placed in a bag, and handed out to the guest. The sandwich itself is a perfect small, homemade meal for students on the go. We also had the opportunity to try some of their house-made cookies, both chocolate chip and sugar. Their cookies are another popular item thanks to their perfect amount of crunch on the outside and chewiness on the inside. The great thing about having Rebel Grounds right in Hospitality Hall, is that students have fresh homemade options to choose from during the school week. 

The second area of the front of house Epicurean members had the chance to experience was the barista station. This is where the Rebel Grounds team creates drinks from their extensive menu. They offer almost anything you can imagine when it comes to coffee; also offering less common drinks such as frozen lavender lemonade and a pumpkin spice cider. They also offer a variety of ways to customize drinks to dietary needs. It’s the house-made syrups that truly make the drinks unique, from their more common options such as caramel and vanilla to less common options such as lavender and peanut butter. The Rebel Grounds baristas taught Epicurean members how they make an espresso shot and use it to create a latte. Along with making a latte comes steaming milk, a task that proved much more difficult than expected. However, it does provide a greater appreciation for the skills required when it comes to a barista’s work. They also introduced us to a new kind of drink: an iced lavender latte. While one may not think lavender and coffee would be a good fit, the taste is surprising. The bitterness of the coffee with the milk complements the floral lavender flavor perfectly. It just goes to show what an important contribution Rebel Grounds is to UNLV, providing high-quality and unique offerings for students and staff alike to experience.