Students offer culinary arts at school feast

Published 12:00 am Saturday, November 18, 2000

ERIK SANZENBACH / L’Observateur / November 18, 2000

RESERVE – Remember what school lunches were like with green jello and whatwas laughingly called mystery meat? Well, school cafeterias all over thecountry should take a lesson from the culinary arts students at East St.John High School.

The faculty and administration were treated Wednesday to a sumptuousThanksgiving feast that was planned, prepared and served totally by thestudents.

This is the first year of the Culinary Arts program at East St. John High, andjudging by the happy smiles and contented looks on the teachers’ faces, thisprogram is a huge success.

Twenty-one students spent a week planning the dinner and two dayspreparing it in the food preparation lab at school. The menu included friedturkey, broccoli and cheese, two kinds of dressing, (sausage and groundmeat), macaroni and cheese, candied yams, dirty rice, cheese rolls,cornbread, cheesecake and pecan/pumpkin pie.

The cooking curriculum is part of the School-to-Work program and is taughtby Ellan Gaudia.

“We are trying to teach the students how to prepare restaurant-style foodand what goes into serving meals,” said Gaudia.

The junior chefs set up a classroom with dining tables, tablecloths andsilverware. This was the “restaurant” or “front of the house.” The cookinglab was the “back of the house,” and except for the waiters, students stayedin the kitchen.

Because the dining area was small, there were three shifts thatcorresponded to the three lunch periods of the school.

Each teacher was met at the door by the maitre d’, who checked theirreservation and seated them. Then a waiter handed them a menu, and theteachers chose which type of dressing, bread and dessert they would prefer. It should be noted that each teacher paid $3 in advance to reserve a seatand to help buy the ingredients for the meal.

Back in the kitchen, the mood got a little frantic as students in their chefhats started slicing turkey, ladling vegetables and cutting cornbread fortheir customers.

Jenipher Snyder, a senior, was stirring a pot of ground meat to be used inthe dirty rice.

“I really love to cook,” said Snyder. “I’ve never cooked for this many peoplebefore. It was a real challenge, but I’m having a lot of fun.”Three young cooks had formed an assembly line and were filling dinner plateswith different foods.

One of the girls in line, senior Keva Trepagnier said, “After this, I know I wantto be a chef.”In the dining room, East St. John principal Debra Schum was digging into hermeal. She smiled as she took a bite of fried turkey.

“I wish we could have lunches like this every day,” said Schum. Everybodylaughed.

Gaudia and her class plan other meals during the year. They will even cook upa dinner for the members of the St. John the Baptist Parish School Board.

Gaudia said the program really gives her students hands-on experience incooking for large groups of people. Since this is the first year, a lot of herculinary arts students are seniors and won’t be able to intern. But she hopesthat by next year she will be able to send her charges into real restaurantsto get a feel of what it is like to be a chef. The course will also go towardcredits in cooking courses at Delgado Junior College and at Nicholls StateUniversity.

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