Crossroads High students learn food prep
By WENDY SLEDD
Special to Leader-Press
For Cheyenne Chapman who had never learned to cook or even how to properly set a table, the thought of preparing enough food to cater and serve at a luncheon for 40 people was equal to entering Hell’s Kitchen whether Ramsay Gordon was there or not.
Chapman, 18, is a student at Crossroads High School enrolled in Lifetime Nutrition and Wellness. The class at this alternative school of choice is designed to teach students life skills that they may not have obtained in their home environment.
“I really didn’t know how to cook before this class,” Chapman said. “Now, I have learned about food preparation, how to not cross contaminate, how to figure measurements, all kinds of things I didn’t know before.”
Chapman said the thing that she learned that surprised her the most was discovering which knives to use to cut different meats, fruits and vegetables.
“You have to use different blades on different types of textures and that means remembering using the small sharper knife on meat,” she said. “The knives are color coded to make it easier to remember.”
Teacher Mary Torres said students must successfully meet two requirements to pass the class, prepare a meal at home and one for the staff of the school. The school does not have a full kitchen which Torres said results in additional challenges. Students only have an electric skillet, griddle, crockpot, and microwave with which to prepare the food. There is only a single refrigerator to cool the food.
“We meet at the grocery store and students are taught how to buy ingredients, compare pricing and read nutrition labels. They learn how to compare labels for each of the four food groups,” she said. “We do a comparison between making the food ourselves and a fast food restaurant. They learn how to make the best buy and which is healthier.”
Students must also prepare their invitations to learn proper etiquette and protocol. They develop the menu and purchase the items needed. Time management is required to calculate the number of guests and plan the service of the meals, Torres said.
Each student must take the lead in the kitchen and supervise two student helpers. The student in charge must prepare the first plate as an example and explain to her workers what the expectation is developing a sense of cooperation and teamwork, Torres said.
“They definitely develop a better appreciation of nutrition and learn that cooking isn’t throwing a dish in the microwave,” Torres said. “Even if they walk away with some time management skills, an understanding of finances and meal planning and over-all nutrition, that is our goal.”
Half of the student’s grade is based on the dinner guests rate the meal using a written survey. In addition to the staff being served lunch, soldiers from the school’s adopted military unit were also invited to dine.
“I thought it was great. I enjoyed it very much,” said Second Lieutenant Milan Jairo of the 3rd Engineer Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division. “It was a three-course meal and a really nice event. The cake was especially delicious.”
For Chapman, she walked away with not only a passing grade but skills she will use for a lifetime.
“I’ve really learned a lot. When I live on my own, I will be able to use this experience and apply it to my life,” she said.