Alcuin Stories

Cooking Up Some Fun

Using a $200 budget, culinary arts students prepare meals for 70 classmates.
Alcuin middle schoolers gather once a week to eat a meal cooked by their sev­enth-grade peers.
Teriyaki chicken, red beans and rice, and a Chick-Fil-A mac and cheese replica are just some examples of what culinary arts students have prepared.
Each Alcuin seventh grader spends a se­mester in a culinary arts class where they're assigned a week to serve as head chef. Du­ties include picking the menu for that week and leading a team of six to eight to a fin­ished product.
"Many of these students don't have the opportunity to cook at home, or they go out a lot," culinary arts instructor Susan Samore said. "In some cases, (we're) helping them realize what it takes to prepare and get that meal out to them at the restaurant and having them reflect and recognize that they're capa­ble of doing those things."
The program comes as part of the Inter­national Baccalaureate component of Alcuin - spe­cifically, the design category, which en­compasses culinary arts.
The chefs are tasked with using a $200 budget to feed 60 to 70 people, which includes all seventh and eighth graders and middle school faculty.
Meal prep starts at the beginning of the week when students put together their gro­cery lists. They then visit Tom Thumb with Samore during a study hall period to obtain the ingredients.
Throughout their assigned week, students get to school early – 7:00 a.m. to be exact - to do their "prep work," which can include chopping, sauce preparation, sautéing, or table setup.
"They have to be committed, and the families have to be committed to bringing the kids here early on those days," Samore said.
Once meal day comes, which is typically Thursday or Friday of each week depending on the class calendar, the students have about 40 minutes to do their final preparation before serving the buffet-style meal.
Samore said the program helps open up students to trying new things.
"A lot of people come in here and say, 'Oh, I don't eat those vegetables,"' she said. "And then when they're prepared in a differ­ent way they've never seen, they're certainly welcome to sample it and particularly when their friends are making it."
Seventh-grade pair Lucas Casas and Amaan Mussani led a meal this semester. They opted to make spaghetti tacos, inspired by the show iCarly.
Mussani said the experience allowed him to learn in the kitchen, as he doesn't cook at home often. "The cooking part near the end was really fun because we got to work with our class­mates and cooperate together to produce a meal," Casas said.
After the meal is complete, the chefs are tasked with completing a reflection, which Samore says is part of almost all IB subjects, to gather what they've learned and what they would have done differently.
Maria Lawson is a staff writer for People Newspapers. This article was reprinted with permission.