Every restaurant in New York has a grade. Lots of people decide where to eat based on those grades but what do they really mean? Where do they come from?

Students from Lyons Community School worked with CUP teaching artist Leigh Davis to go behind the letters on the wall. They interviewed restaurant owners and workers from neighborhood joints and Michelin-starred sensations, spoke with inspectors from the Department of Health, and paid a visit to the Public Advocate’s office. They took what they learned about the system (especially who’s apt to have an advantage) and made a booklet on making the grade.

Students presented their work at Colors Restaurant, the only restaurant in New York that is cooperatively owned and operated by its workers. Students showed off their interview skills in a live interview with a Colors representative about the fairness of the inspection process.

What People are Saying

“From this project, I learned about perspectives. Some people think it’s unfair, and some don’t.” – Jonathan Trivino, “Making the Grade” student

“Interviewing is important because it’s important hear it from different people’s point of view. And actually going outside of the classroom is a better experience. If you’re reading a textbook, it’s different from actually going outside and getting in people’s heads. Textbooks are boring, it’s more interesting when you’re actually learning and people feel like telling you things.” – Jamal Grainger, “Making the Grade” student

Resources & Links

Lyons Community School is a small school is East Williamsburg, Brooklyn, committed to providing a board, stimulating experience in the liberal arts, and preparing students for college, healthy adulthood, and life-long learning.

Funding Support

This project is made possible by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.

Special Thanks

Clara Amenyo, Sandra Di Capua, Brindalyn Webster Chen, Kristen Chin, Jessica Evans, Francis Lam, Jamie Mirabella, North Star Fund, Michelle Sosa, Bryant Washington, Chnette Perry, and Shana Beasley (Department of Health and Mental Hygiene), James Kent (Eleven Madison Park), Michael Kelly, Evan Huang (Baohaus), Lydon Sleeper (Public Advocate Bill de Blasio’s office), and all those East Williamsburg restaurants!


  • CUP
  • Teaching Artist
  • Leigh Davis
  • Project Lead
  • Valeria Mogilevich
  • Project Support
  • Sam Holleran
  • Jeff Kasper
  • Oscar Nunez

  • Booklet Designer
  • Sam Holleran
  • Lyons Community School
  • Students
  • Joshua Arroyo
  • Gipsy Bisono Ramirez
  • Dayquan Cogdall
  • Jason Fernandez
  • Amramie Fing
  • Jamal Grainger
  • Aimee Hernandez
  • Yuleidy Lugo
  • Erica Marshall
  • Esmerlyn Mesa Regla
  • Kimberly Ponce
  • Justino Rodriguez
  • Chardhil Spratley
  • Gabriella Tinsley
  • Cristian Tolentino
  • Jonathan Trivino

  • Teacher
  • Peter Litman

  • Project Coordinator
  • Jody Madell


Investigating the Grade
  • Materials for the Arts
  • August 27, 2013

Students from Lyons Community School in Brooklyn and CUP teaching artist Leigh Davis worked together to examine the restaurant grading system in the city.