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Career Tech program hones students’ cooking skills

This year, the Butler County Schools Career Academy is cooking up something good for a number of high school students.

More than 40 10th, 11th and 12th graders are enrolled in the Academy’s new Culinary Arts Program, part of the system’s Dual Enrollment Program with Trenholm State Community College.

Butler County Schools Career Tech Director Jennifer Burt gives credit to a student for inspiring her to look into establishing the new addition to their program.

“I had a student approach me and say that he was really interested in something we didn’t have—that there was a group of students who didn’t fit into existing programs like welding, nursing or automotive tech,” explained Burt. “So we talked about establishing a culinary arts program here. I started researching and looking for grant monies and here we are with the program underway. We are very excited about it.”

The Culinary Arts students, who must maintain at least a 2.5 GPA to enter and remain in the program, earn college credit on their transcripts. And those who chose to continue their education at Trenholm “will be well on their way to an Associate’s Degree,” says Burt.

“Trenholm also has an Articulation Program with Auburn University, which allows students seeking a four-year degree a seamless transition to the university. It’s a wonderful opportunity for them.”

The CA students spend five days each week in the food lab under the instruction of an executive chef, with two days focused on sanitation education and two days on hospitality. Each Friday they have their cooking lab. So far, the students have prepared pie shells and a variety of both savory and sweet pies, including egg custard and pecan pies. They have also baked biscuits and cookies, including some by very old recipes. “The students actually prepared tea cakes using a recipe that dated back to the early 19th century,” said Burt.

Next semester, the students’ two college courses will be in nutrition and food chemistry, with a full-fledged bake-off planned for later in the school year.

Before the end of this semester, the students will execute a full table service, preparing and presenting food to their guests.

“They will be hands-on in all facets of this service, from the china patterns they choose for the service, to cooking and baking the courses and properly displaying and presenting them for the meal . . . really, a culmination of everything they will have learned so far,” explained Burt.

The Career Tech director believes the new Culinary Arts Program could help many of its students on their way to a promising future in the hospitality industry.

“Look around just in our area alone— we have The Montgomery Renaissance, Wind Creek Casino and other venues featuring executive chefs and sous chefs. I don’t think that demand is going to decrease, either,” said Burt.