Are we cooking today?

“Are we cooking today?”

I hear that refrain a dozen times a week with five cooking classes meeting two or three times a week.

This early in the year, the answer is, “Unfortunately, no.” We have to finish the preliminaries.

For my Nutrition and Wellness classes, we don’t begin cooking until students learn kitchen safety and sanitation. Everyone needs to learn to use a fire extinguisher and to mop up spills. I teach students to wash dishes, which sounds silly, but it is not uncommon for students to look around for a dishwasher and are lost when all they have are a sink, some Palmolive, and a dish rag. Despite my demonstration, I have to reteach the dishwashing lesson when I find dirty dishes in the cabinet.

In this introductory class, students also learn about nutrition and healthy habits. When we do have cooking labs, I require student teams to look up the nutrition information, including calories, protein, carbs, fat, vitamins and minerals. Then they have to decide where their dish fits in a healthy eating plan. If we are making cookies, and they find mostly fat and carbs, I tell students they fit into the mental health category -- just not every day.

My Culinary and Hospitality Management I class, which is more advanced than Nutrition and Wellness, before students begin cooking, they have to prepare for and take the ServSafe Food Protection Manager exam. Students who receive a passing score (75 percent or better), become Certified Food Protection Managers, a designation of the National Restaurant Association. Even for students who aren’t planning a career in the hospitality industry, this certification is valuable; a student applying for a part-time or summer job will have an edge over applicants without the certification.

When students in the first year of the culinary program do begin cooking, they make all sorts of savory dishes. They learn to make a variety of sauces, vegetables, fruit, starches and entrees.

Students in the second year of Culinary and Hospitality Management begin cooking sooner than those in the less advanced classes. Baking is the focus of the cooking portion of this course. We will make quick breads, yeast products, pies, tarts, cream puffs and cakes.They haven’t yet had a chance to cook, though, because they first learn about commercial foodservice operations. There is a career focus to this class.

I look forward to the day when I can answer “yes” to the perennial question, “Are we cooking today?” There is nothing better for a teacher than to see a class full of smiling faces.

Lillian Anderson,
Family & Consumer Science Teacher

Photo: Juniors Madelyn Allman, left, and Paige Jackson show off their fruit pizza that they made during their freshman year in Nutrition and Wellness.