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Students cooking up recipe for success

Published 8/28/2012 in Special Sections : GCHS


Students in the Garden City High school culinary arts program will gain a leg up on their future competition by not only having the opportunity to work in a state-of-the-art facility, but also because their instructor has high expectations in terms of their professionalism, proper food handling procedures and their understanding of cooking methods and terminology.

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Becky Malewitz/ Telegram Culinary students Elsa Montanez, junior,Yadira Sandoval, senior, Jerrell Peterson, junior, and Rylee Escalada, senior, pose for a photo in the new culinary classroom at Garden City High School.

Becky Malewitz/ Telegram Culinary students Elsa Montanez, junior,Yadira Sandoval, senior, Jerrell Peterson, junior, and Rylee Escalada, senior, pose for a photo in the new culinary classroom at Garden City High School.


Brad Nading/TelegramA portion of the culinary classes kitchen is shown at Garden City High School.

Brad Nading/TelegramA portion of the culinary classes kitchen is shown at Garden City High School.

The new culinary facility is a major improvement over the one that instructor Karen Burden used at the old high school, where students used regular kitchen stoves and had little storage space. In contrast, the department at the new school boasts industrial-sized stoves, refrigerators, both walk-in and regular freezers, an industrial-grade dishwasher, mixers, steamers, proper sinks and is laid out in a way that mirrors professional restaurants.

"I think one of the big advantages to the department is the fact that the students will be learning on commercial equipment," Burden said.

As part of the curriculum, a baking and pastry class is being offered through the program, which Burden said was not possible at the old high school.

"We haven't offered baking and pastry as a separate class before, but we are this year mainly because when we did our competency profiles and revamped the culinary program on the state level, we added the baking and pastry," she said. "With the new, we have the baking tables, the ovens, the big mixers and the sheeter, which is used for croissants and puffed pastries and things like that."

Elsa Montanez, 16, described the new facility as "pretty cool."

"If I go into the culinary field, I want to be more of a baker — mostly cakes and cupcakes," Montanez said.

The addition of the baking and pastry class isn't the only change.

"One of my hopes is that the students will really take a more professional attitude towards this because it was very difficult for them to visualize and understand that proper attire and that sort of thing for safety issues was critical and important, and so I'm hoping that more students will take a more serious, professional attitude towards it and really see, that through this experience, they can either go directly to work in the industry or go for more education," Burden said.

Rylee Escalada, 17, who recently moved to Garden City from Albuquerque, N.M., said that her old school had nothing like it.

"As soon as I walked in, I was just in awe," Escalada said.

In the new facility, Burden said, her students are required to enter through a locker area, where they must change into their cooking attire, including chef hats, prior to entering the culinary facility. In maintaining strict hygienic standards, there are also sinks devoted only to hand washing.

One of Burden's main goals is also to make certain that the students understand what a career in the culinary field means.

"A lot of times, students will say they want to go on to culinary school, and I think, 'They've never been in a class, and how do they know if this is really what they want to do?'" she said. "And this is one of the good things about the program is that it helps students to know if this is really what they want to do."

College-aged students have a tendency to change their majors, so the fact that these decisions can be made by students at the high school level is another benefit.

Jerell Peterson, 17, who is an example of someone who has a variety of interests, described the facility as state-of-the-art and said he is considering changing his career goal of becoming a graphic game designer to being a chef.

"It's hard to pick. There's a lot of things I like to do," he said.

Burden said that oftentimes, students think that being a chef or baker is like what is seen on TV, when in reality it involves being on your feet all day and lifting and carrying heavy items.

"Because their picture is what's on TV and that's not realistic," she said.

She then explains that the behind-the-scenes preparation had to take place prior to the finished product showing up on their screens.

"I always talk about mise en place, which means putting everything in place, all of their supplies, the preparation, like chopping, dicing and measuring, and having everything laid out so when you're ready to cook, all you have to do is put it together," Burden said. "So, helping them to understand what all is behind the scenes and how critical that part is for any restaurant is very important, because if they don't have their mise en place done, there's no way they can have that meal out there when it's supposed to be."

The term, mise en place, as well as julienne and chiffonade, are just three of many French terms used in the culinary industry.

Because of this, Burden's students also will have to learn the vocabulary, spelling and meaning of many new words. iPads will play a critical role in this area.

iPad apps also will help students understand more clearly what is meant by certain cooking methods, such as sautéing.

"The main thing that I'm looking at is their ability. Like they're going to be learning about sautéing, and I'll have an app to where before they come into class, they'll be able to look at it and see what it is that they're going to do, and if they still have problems with it, they can go back and review it and see the science behind it — why it needs to be high heat, and what's going to happen if they don't have that high heat," she said.

Aside from cooking, there are a variety of avenues that students can pursue within the culinary industry, such as, restaurant management, so she also will have the students use the iPad to keep track of inventory, costs and other financial aspects.

Yadira Sandoval, 18, said that she dreams of one day becoming a chef.

"I'm really thankful for them doing everything like this for us because we seem really blessed to have all of this," Sandoval said.

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