While many Algoma District School Board (ADSB) summer school students are earning extra credits in reading, writing and arithmetic at Superior Heights Collegiate, another group is earning a credit in the school’s kitchen, enrolled in the culinary arts program.
Jason Zachary, culinary arts teacher, told SooToday his current class of 11 summer school students are “extremely eager, especially the younger ones.”
The summer school culinary arts program started last year at Superior Heights for eight Grade 10 students, this year’s students having started July 2, wrapping up July 29.
Zachary’s class prepares breakfast for the other summer school students at Superior Heights (approximately 60 people), and also cooks lunch for the 10 summer school teachers at the school.
Zachary arrives at the school at 7:30 a.m. daily, the students starting their class at 8 a.m. and finishing up by 1:30 p.m.
“I like to cook, and I’d like to improve on it. I enjoy cooking at home,” said Lily Faubert, heading into Grade 9 at St. Mary’s College in September.
“I like being under pressure when it comes to certain things (like the kitchen),” Lily smiled.
“It’s a pretty good course. I cook at home a lot and I took this course to learn more. Baking bannock bread is my favourite right now,” said Noodin Taylor, who, like Lily, is looking forward to beginning Grade 9 at St. Mary’s in the fall.
“We’re covering some of the more specialized, higher end lunches,” Zachary said of his students.
When we visited the kitchen/classroom Wednesday, Zachary enthusiastically went from student to student, guiding them in preparing lemon chicken risotto, mixed with shrimp, sauteed onions, garlic, chicken, parmesan cheese, yellow and red peppers.
The students also cater for outside customers.
“We’re connecting with the real world. Christie’s RV put in a request for about 300 s'mores (marshmallow and chocolate treats) and they’re coming to pick them up today,” Zachary said.
Local chef Brennan Cummings, a co-worker of Zachary’s while working at Gran Festa, was scheduled to visit the kitchen classroom Thursday to help the students prepare a gourmet lunch, followed by a chop challenge (like the kind seen on TV) Friday.
“It’s nice to see former students or co-workers in the restaurant industry coming back to visit,” Zachary said.
“The chop challenge evaluates students, where they can show me what they’ve learned in the past couple of weeks. We’re pretty pumped about that.”
Zachary said “they’re capable of anything as long as you give them some detailed instruction, and strict when it comes to the quality and consistency of the food. In a regular semester we take almost three weeks to do safe food handling, and Algoma Public Health has given me the okay to do that. That’s very important, along with kitchen safety. These kids took that during the first week this summer.”
“For the summer culinary arts program, any student in the Algoma District School Board and the Huron-Superior Catholic District School Board is allowed to take the course if they’re going from Grade 8 into Grade 9. This is a Grade 10 level program I’m teaching, but Grade 8 students going into Grade 9, or even Grade 12 students can enrol. I have a couple of Grade 12s and one adult education student as well.”
Zachary teaches the culinary arts program throughout the regular school year at Superior Heights.
“I’m going into my seventh year with the program. We run a Grade 11 and 12 program, the Grade 12 program is a double credit program, and they learn large quantity cooking. We cook for the entire school body and assist with running the cafeteria,” Zachary said.
During the regular school year, Grade 12 students in the double credit culinary arts program at Superior Heights spend three hours daily with Zachary, preparing lunch for 300 to 400 students.
“We work as a team with three amazing food and beverage ladies in the cafeteria. The students get to see the reality of life, and we gear all our food to healthy eating, a variety of salads, roasted vegetables, homemade soups, wraps and sandwiches. These students want that. A lot of students are getting more knowledgeable about what they’re eating, what they’re putting into their bodies.”
In addition, the students are running a small restaurant out of Zachary’s classroom and a recently-purchased hydroponic system will produce fresh herbs at the school.
Zachary’s students, during the last regular school year, also catered for the audience of an ADSB production of Mamma Mia! (about 250 people), as well as catering for not-for-profits.
“We work very closely with industry throughout the regular school year as well. We transition a lot of kids who are going into the hospitality industry, some of them for a part-time job, some of them go on to cook professionally.”
“We’re pretty excited. It really is rewarding to see these kids in the kitchen,” Zachary said.