In the style of Food Network’s “Restaurant: Impossible”, Fresno State Culinology®, dietetics and food science students are transforming Amir’s Shish Kebob, a Fresno Armenian and Mediterranean restaurant.

On the TV show, failing restaurants often get new food, personnel and décor in just 48 hours. The scope of the Fresno State students’ effort is more limited, but could help a struggling, locally-owned eatery attract more business.

In collaboration with owners Amir Karimi and his wife, Zari Karimi, students are upgrading several elements of the restaurant, including:

  • Designing a new logo.
  • Consulting with the landlord and neighboring tenants to install new signs.
  • Expanding communication with customers through Facebook and Twitter.
  • Advertising to attract new customers.
  • Revitalizing exterior and interior decorations.
  • Updating plans for storage.

Students enrolled in Dr. Klaus Tenbergen’s “Quantity Food Production” class are studying techniques and sciences of menu planning, recipe standardization, equipment layout, production controls and quality assurance in a food service setting. Students chose to apply classroom lessons in a hands-on makeover of Amir’s Shish Kebob, rather than by analyzing a restaurant’s menu and recommending changes.

“The most significant contribution is that students take responsibility and ownership for their learning, therefore their self-esteem soars, which.also helps to create better work habits and attitudes toward learning,” Tenbergen said. “The students learn more than just finding answers. This project allows them to expand their minds and think beyond what they normally would.”

Groups have been formed to handle each area of the remodel and work in the evening or slow business hours with the Karimis. During each course lecture, students discuss successes and opportunities they have come across during the project.

“The best part about this project is that I am using skills and knowledge that I have learned throughout my two and a half years at Fresno State and applying it towards a real life situation,” Denise Reyes, a student assigned to public relations for the restaurant, said. “It is something that I can take with me for any future projects.”

The restaurant was chosen after a visit by Tenbergen, himself a chef on four continents. He enjoyed the food, but was surprised at how slow business was.

Amir Karimi moved to the United States in 1976 from Isfahan, Iran, and earned his bachelor’s degree in business from the University of Northern Iowa. He wanted to own a restaurant, so when he moved to Fresno in 1987 he opened the California Baking Company, specializing in baking whole wheat and white pita bread sold primarily to Armenian markets and delis.

In 2002, Karimi was approached by a bakery client who had a restaurant for sale, sold the bakery and bought what became Amir’s Shish Kebab.

Students have been working on this project since October to stage a grand re-opening 5:30-7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 9, when the community will be introduced to the remodeled restaurant, listen to music, hear some speeches and sample food.

For more information, contact Josie Piercey, student public relations, at 760.920.3786 or

(Copy by University Communications news intern Nicole Maul.)

Related link:

Department of Food Science