New commercial-kitchen equipment at East Jessamine High School will help students feel the heat of the culinary careers for which they’re preparing.
East High teacher Cary York obtained the equipment, which is set to be installed over the summer, through a $100,000 grant. It includes a three-part sink, six-burner gas range, fryer, griddle, hood range, refrigerator, freezer and double-stack convection oven.
“It’s pretty much the basic equipment you would need if you were running a kitchen,” York said.
York said her current facilities — which have basic residential appliances — are excellent for teaching simple food skills.
“We don’t want to give up this type of food prep, because some kids just take it for the basic knowledge,” she said. “If they’re just doing foods and nutrition, this is perfect; once you get into the upper-level food courses, they need more.”
York and Melanie Stamper, who teaches advanced-placement chemistry in the district, have developed curriculum for a culinary career pathway that combines family and consumer sciences and chemistry. The program includes lessons on organic foods, food additives, leavening agents and the reduction of fat in snack food.
A lot of students don’t know the chemical reactions in simple cooking, York said.
“They’re surprised to learn that chemistry occurs when you add baking soda or baking powder to flour and add it to a liquid and put it in the oven,” she said.
In addition to learning cooking skills, those who aspire to have culinary careers get a taste in York’s classes of how they would fit into the field — including troubles they could face.
“A child who’s a vegetarian or a vegan is going to have trouble in the culinary field,” she said. “I don’t necessarily have a problem with that choice or that lifestyle, but if you’re going to prepare food for crowds, you have to be able to taste it; you can’t just put it out.”
With textbooks growing obsolete and ever-changing nutrition guidelines, York is working toward an entirely online curriculum for the culinary-pathway classes. With the new commercial equipment, she hopes students will be able to leave her classes with a postsecondary credit and possibly have a “jump start” toward a culinary degree.
“Then our kids have some postsecondary credit or ability to jump into a program, and they also have some idea of what they’re getting into,” York said.
The career pathway is currently only available at East High; York said she hopes that moving much of the program online will open up the possibility of West High students also participating.
The Jessamine County Board of Education has given approval for the new equipment to be installed in the current art room at East High, with plans to move the art program to a larger area not currently occupied. York expects it to be ready to go for the 2012-2013 school year.