Chef Clyde Rush said his students understood quickly the kitchen is a place to learn.
“So many students come in thinking we get to cook, eat and play in the kitchen,” he said. “We are fixing real food for real people for real functions. We are a licensed restaurant from the health inspector.”
In the corner of the classroom hangs an inspection score: 96. Rush said he is unhappy with the number. He explained the kitchen was docked for a sugar canister not being fully closed.
His goal is to get a higher score next time around.
Students have the opportunity to participate in three levels of the culinary arts program. Last fall found the first students enrolled into Culinary Arts 1. Currently both Culinary Arts 1 and 2 are in session. This fall will see the first Culinary Arts 3 course launch.
Safety and sanitation are taught before any other topic. Students who stick with the program will also learn three types of cooking methods (dry, moist and combination), knife skills, how to prepare meals, how to use various kitchen utensils and equipment and how to use various materials in the kitchen.
Students engaged in the courses will learn how to make a variety of meals, including grilled chicken, roast pork, beef tips, omelettes and roast turkeys.
Students Chip Shellhouse and David Donan shared about their involvement in the culinary arts program.
Both expressed an interest in cooking prior to their involvement with the course offered at Cleveland High.
Donan said he used to help his grandmother in the kitchen when he was younger. Cooking and baking have always been a favored hobby. He said taking the courses allows him to see how he could make a career out of his culinary pursuits.
“When I first came into the program, I was probably the least experienced person,” Donan said. “All my life, I have been making cupcakes and cookies from packages. I was really confused, but I caught onto it really quickly.”
Chip said he did not expect the number of rules everyone needs to follow in the kitchen. In spite of getting in trouble from time to time, he said he loves the program.
He was the first of the two to take his interest in culinary arts to the next level through the Skills USA team. Donan joined the team this semester. The program is a career and technical student organization offered to high school and college students across America.
Skills USA requires its teams to complete community service. The students and Rush chose New Hope Pregnancy Care Center for Chip’s family connection and the nonprofit’s mission. The group has conducted two projects with the center. First, Skills USA team members sold food at the fall Walk for Life event. All proceeds were donated to the nonprofit. Recently, the Skills USA culinary arts team prepared truffles as gifts for the table hosts at the center’s annual spring banquet.
New Hope director Tracie Shellhouse spoke highly of the team’s involvement with the center. She explained volunteerism is at the center of the nonprofit’s ministry. She said it is the only way New Hope can accomplish what it has.
“It is awesome when you see teenagers step up alongside your ministry and actually want to help and go above and beyond,” she said. “They have had some very late nights and some very early mornings to make it happen. It is just allowing us to engage more people.”
She said the relationship between New Hope and the students has evolved since the fall.
“What I think the partnership with Skills USA culinary arts team has done is given our donors who come to these events the opportunity to see there are people, especially young people, in our community who are concerned,” Tracie said. “I hear this often from adults, and I don’t agree with it because I work with a population from teenagers to adults, that children just don’t hear anymore.”
Added Shellhouse concerning perceived youth apathy or poor listening skills, “That is not true. ... It is a great effort the Skills USA team did.”
She explained volunteer efforts like those from the Skills USA team ensure the nonprofit can continue to meet young women who find themselves in a crisis pregnancy situation.
Meesha Koharcheck was one such client. She said she was in an unhealthy marriage when she discovered she was pregnant. She heard about New Hope and decided to check the center out.
“At that time in my life, it was just a really dark time. These women here just came alongside me and loved me through it,” she said. “They really prayed for me and were the hands and feet of Jesus to me when they didn’t know what was going on in my life at all.”
The center stood by Koharcheck through her first pregnancy and helped her find an adoption agency when she returned four days prior to the delivery of her second child.
“Through the years, these women have been family to me. They supported me through my decisions. They encouraged me. They prayed for me. They equipped me with tools needed to be a mother,” Koharcheck said. “I still come to talk to Tracie and recommend ladies to come here. They need the same love I was shown and the same care I was shown.”
From teaching sanitation to reaching out into the community, Rush assured the culinary arts program is alive and well at Cleveland High.