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Cooking up a career

SOUTH POINT — It’s just a few minutes before noon on a Friday and Breanna Carter and Morgan Damron are thinking about the same thing most of the teens at South Point High are at that moment: lunch.

Except in their case, they’re not so concerned about what they’re going to eat but what they’re going to serve.

And if the placemats are straight. And the water goblets filled with ice and the croutons nice and crunchy.

Because lunchtime for South Point’s Culinary Academy Café students means class is in session.

Open to juniors and seniors the two-year catering course gives teens an in-the-trenches look at what careers are possible in the cooking field.

In a partnership with Hocking College in Nelsonville, students who successfully finish both years at South Point will simultaneously get college credit for their work.

Under the director of Melinda Stevens of the high school’s home economics department, students learn the fundamentals in making the dishes that are the backbone of any professional restaurant kitchen or catering firm.

“They learn stocks, soups, yeast breads, quick breads,” said Stevens who believes the only way to master a subject is hands on.

“You have to do it, to learn it,” she said.

In a mock lab the students learn everything from the major to the decorative, from nutrition to sanitation to how to fold a napkin. Whether the students decide someday to join the more than 8.4 million working in food service nationwide, they will probably look to that industry at some time for a job, possibly their first.

“One in three will work sometime in the food industry in a fast food, on a cruise ship or in a restaurant,” Stevens said.

To make sure students get the most varied experience, they must do three 20-hour internships — in a fast food, in a sit-down restaurant and with a caterer — before they can graduate.

Each week the students put on a formal luncheon like the one they did a week ago for staff including principal John Maynard and fellow students.

On the menu were a garden salad with homemade croutons, Pointer Soup in home-baked bread bowls, chicken cordon blue and Ho Ho cake, a chocolate fudge cake with cream filling.

But getting the food out of the oven is only half the challenge when putting out a formal restaurant-quality menu. Students are also taught that presentation is as much a part of the recipe as how many teaspoons of butter they need to stir in.

“You eat with your eyes as well as your stomach,” Stevens said. “And at their age there is the presentation of self. Tattoos are not attractive when serving food.”

It’s a smorgasboard of reasons for why these teens chose to take the culinary course.

Kaitlin Jewell sees herself with her own catering or cake decorating business after school.

“I like to just be creative with different tastes and textures,” she said.

Whitley Sizemore, who takes on the duty of manning the grill at home, is drawn to the practical side of the field.

“It takes a lot of planning and organization,” she said. “I like that part of it.”

Matt Hackworth has been cooking at home since he was 11, often turning out a good portion of the annual Thanksgiving menu.

He bears the jokes that come from being the only male in the class with good humor because he sees the expedient side to learning how to cook better.

“It’s more of a hobby,” he said. “But I need to know how to do it when I’m an adult and go out on my own and not eat take out.”

POINTER SOUP

Recipe provided by Melinda Stevens

2 large cans condensed Cream of Chicken Soup

(do NOT use the low fat type)

1 large can whole milk

2 bags frozen California mix Vegetables

(broccoli, cauliflower, carrots)

1 stick butter

Garlic Salt

Fresh pepper to taste

1. Pour condensed soup and milk into crock pot

2. Using a food processor or blender, chop the

frozen veggies into fine pieces.

3. Add veggies to the soup base in crock pot

4. Add whole stick butter; cover and cook on low until veggies are tender…remember to stir frequently.

5. Add fresh pepper and garlic to taste. (I usually add the garlic first in the beginning, as it cooks the flavor will intensify…add more if needed later)

For something a little extra special, serve your Pointer Soup in homemade bread bowls. Very simple to create. Use frozen bread dough for your creations. After dough has become room temp., combine 3 pieces of dough (3 rolls) and form into 1 large roll and let rise until double. Bake a little over done. After “bowl” cools, use a bread knife and cut off the top of the “bowl” (save for later use). If you want a larger bowl, combine more dough pieces. “Scoop” out the center of the “bowl”…you can save this bread for homemade croutons. Let bowl dry out in a low temperature oven for about 15-20 minutes on 175 degrees. Fill bowl with soup, garnish with “lid” and a sprig of fresh parsley and enjoy!

HO HO CAKE

This is a showstopper cake that you can make in a short period of time. Prepare a Devil’s Food Cake mix and bake in a 9x13x2 pan according to directions. After cake has cooled, remove from pan onto a cookie sheet. Freeze for about 1 hour. Using thread, cut through the cake horizontally and return to freezer. (It will now be on two cookie sheets)

FILLING:

Cook until “mash-potatoey” 5 tablespoons flour and 1 cup milk. Cook over medium high heat and stir constantly. After it reaches the consistency of mashed potatoes, remove from heat and let cool completely.

Add 1 cup sugar and beat until sugar is no longer “grainy”.

Add 1 stick margarine, 1/2 cup Crisco and 1 teaspoon vanilla.

Beat until creamy and fluffy.

Remove cake from freezer and spread filling between layers. Press layer cake down onto filling. Frost with homemade or prepared milk chocolate frosting. Store in refrigerator