High school chefs gain experience

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 17, 2013

RESERVE – Students aspiring to work in the culinary field are getting hands-on experience at St. John the Baptist Parish’s two public high schools.
West St. John High School and East St. John High School both offer classes through the ProStart program, a nationwide program for high school students that develops the best and brightest talent into tomorrow’s industry leaders. ProStart’s industry-driven curriculum of everything from culinary techniques to management skills provides real-world educational opportunities and builds practical skills for the future.
Beginning this semester, students participating in ProStart classes are also earning college credit in the culinary arts at River Parishes Community College through the district’s dual enrollment program.
They also receive an industry-based certificate of completion for finishing the class.
“This program is important because in Louisiana food is a culture,” West St. John High School ProStart teacher Lorenzo Edwards said. “It’s how we make our money in Louisiana. This program can help you decide if you want to get into it in college before you get to college.”
Edwards returned to his high school alma mater in August to take over the ProStart classes after working in the kitchens of the Roosevelt Hotel in New Orleans. The 2001 West St. John High graduate earned degrees in business management and culinary arts from Nicholls State University.
“I tell my students they don’t have to cook. You can gain knowledge of the industry as well and run a restaurant,” Edwards said. “The program focuses on culinary management, such as being an owner or running the front of the house, as well as actual culinary skills.”
Earlier this month, Edwards took students Kameron Sorapuru, Alasyia Davis, Jalon Young and Shalacy Sterling to the Louisiana Restaurant Association Education Foundation ProStart Student Competition in New Orleans, where teams of students from 17 Louisiana high schools were judged in two categories – culinary and management – during a two-day competition.
For the culinary competition, students had an hour to prepare a three-course gourmet meal and were judged on techniques such as knife skills and poultry fabrication.
West St. John’s students prepared a crispy shrimp and andouille dumpling appetizer, followed by an entrée of orange glazed fish and chicken and andouille jambalaya fried rice and coconut rice pudding and fried bananas foster for dessert.
“They didn’t place but they did really well,” Edwards said.
East St. John’s culinary team made grits and shrimp round BLT, catfish classique and a zesty saucy lemon mold. The team consisted of Deshana Brown, Monterio Cage, Angel Parilla, Demetrius Stewart and Caleb Thomas.
“Our dessert was one out of the best three there,” East St. John High ProStart teacher Autrey Washington said.
East St. John also competed in the management competition. Students on that team were Steven Dudley, Brenda Franco, Maribel Harrera, Tia Jones and Brea Smith. In that competition, students had to demonstrate their knowledge of the restaurant and food service industry by developing and presenting a business proposal for a new restaurant concept.