Everybody’s business

Cheech, not Chong
There are more than 50 listings in the Yellow Pages of businesses catering to catering. So what makes Cheech’s Catering stand out from the rest of the pack?

According to one of the owners, Evelyn Zanker, it’s all about the olive oil. Her new business features Zanker’s Organic Mandarin Olive Oil, which is produced by her husband Fritz and his cousin Alan Zanker. She said the oil gives the food “a slightly Asian flavor.” Zanker co-owns the business with her son John Silvera, who worked at Provisions Catering for three years.

“I want to offer something different,” Zanker said. “Your imagination is your only limit.”

Zanker learned to cook from her grandmother, who she said never measured anything, instead using a pinch here and a skosh there.

Cheech’s prepares everything from ravioli and tamales to sushi and will appear at Manzanita Place on Nov. 7 for Chico’s 2004 Wedding Expo.

He has class
Remember the olden days, when you would spend an eternity writing out your class schedule, only to realize that the 8 a.m. pedagogical-grammar class conflicted with underwater basket-weaving? Well, it looks as if Robert Strazzarino, a junior at Chico State, has just made the old method obsolete.

The Wildcat Scheduler, a service Strazzarino offers on his Web site, figures out every possible schedule based on students’ class needs and even when they want to take breaks.

“It’s really fast,” the 19-year-old computer science major said proudly. “This thing will figure out the top 20 schedules out of 50,000 possible in less than a tenth of a second.”

Strazzarino released a test version during the spring 2004 semester and was able to round up about 1,000 users through word of mouth and fliers. The service is free to students, whose numbers are now approaching 2,000. Strazzarino hopes the figure will hit 3,000 by the end of the semester.

Nine local businesses advertise on the site, including Moxie’s Café and Gallery and The Pita Pit. Meanwhile, Strazzarino’s looking to expand the business and hopes a business or marketing student will jump aboard to crunch the numbers. The site can be accessed at www.wildcatscheduler.com

Off the beaten path
I received an e-mail the other day from a woman who referred to herself as a “resident troublemaker” from Forest Ranch. She was raving about the newly opened Forest Ranch Roadhouse, located on the corner of Highway 32 and Nopel Avenue, about 16 miles east of Chico. She went on to say that the owners were “smart-alecky crack-ups” and that the locals were “well-known yet lovable troublemakers.” I was intrigued.

So I made the trek up the hill on Monday, only to find the restaurant empty. An old-timer told me they were closed on Monday and Tuesday, so I peered in the window to catch a glimpse of the menu. It looked like the standard dinner fare—burgers, sandwiches—and for breakfast there were omelets and breakfast burritos. But you have to believe that a mom and pop diner with only eight tables has to put out some good grub. It’s not a bad little drive, either.

Eating Crow
Last week, an error snuck its way into this column. I originally wrote that The Black Crow closed escrow on Aug. 29, then, just before deadline, learned that sale of the restaurant would not close until late November. I quickly made the change, but I failed to check the final version, and the error slipped through. My apologies.