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San Jacinto News Times - Local News

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Cookies, knife skills & culinary arts in school


By Megan Whitworth

Learning how to cook desserts was senior Jayde Torres' favorite part so far in her culinary arts class at Shepherd High School. She joined the cooking program last year, her junior year. It was a class that would help her after she graduated high school, Torres said. "(I've learned) knife skills – how to properly hold a knife," she said. "(We've learned) how to make homemade jambalaya; we made lasagna. We've made a bunch of desserts. Those are things that I took away from it that I could use for the future." Junior Riley Rodgers said even though she doesn't plan to be a chef, the culinary arts program is helping her learn how to cook. "My dad cooks for our family, and I want to be able to cook for my family when I get older," she said. "I think it's a good skill to have." In her sixth year of teaching at the high school, culinary arts teacher Samantha Keith said more and more students are interested in the culinary route at the school. "I'm really excited to see where these kids are going," she said. Throughout the last five years, Keith said the program has changed from only lessons and cooking in the classroom, to feeding teachers, to cooking for students at prom, to catering for community events, and now participating at competitions. Plus, she works along with culinary schools, such as Culinary Institute LeNôtre in Houston and Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts in Austin, to know how to best prepare students for culinary school. "Now my lessons are more based on what do we need to know to really become a chef. 'What do you need to know to move past here and be successful in the culinary classroom,'" Keith said. "It can also take you to restaurant management, anything in the hospitality business. We have certifications. We have the ServSafe Food Handler certification that allows you to work in the restaurant. Then we have the ServSafe Food Manager certification that allows you to work in a restaurant. There always has to be a manager there at all times, and so you may get a little bit more money by having your food manager's license." During the holiday season, Keith said the students will learn how to bake cookies, bread, pies and other desserts. Then in the following months, students will go into fruits and vegetables, soups, and sauces. She'll also start to teach techniques and recipes the students will use at competition. "That' s more of the learning how to cook different starches, how to cook different meats, vegetables and the different sauces that go with those techniques, and just the team work aspect, working together," Keith said. A couple of years ago twin sisters Vianey and Jannett Bustos learned how make lasagna in class, Keith said. The duo then took the recipe home and made a new dish. "They tweaked it and made a Mexican lasagna, and just with taco meat, cheddar cheese and Queso blanco – just all kind of amazing things," Keith said. "They brought me some back, and I was like, 'Oh my goodness; this is so delicious.' I like for the kids to go home and cook something. I will print them out extra recipes for them to take home, so they can just not tell their families what they're doing, but cook for them." One student who is making her mark in the culinary world is 2015 Shepherd High School graduate Jackie Salinas, who is a chef at Disney World in Orlando, Florida. Salinas graduated from Escoffier in 2016. She has been back to Shepherd High School to share her culinary experience with students, Keith said. "It's just one of the best feelings that you can have," Keith said of seeing students succeed after high school. "Whenever your in here, your working so hard that the students are learning the skills, but you're also working hard to make sure they develop a level of confidence in what they do. And that they keep their vision in where they're going, and just to help them see all of the steps it takes to meet your shortterm goals, to then meet your longterm goals, and to never give up. …It's amazing to see them do that."


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