Bailey students visit WHHS culinary program
Bailey students visit WHHS culinary program
Posted on 12/30/2014
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WEST HAVEN, Dec. 15, 2014 — A group of Bailey Middle School students got a sneak peek Dec. 10 of the culinary program they will have the chance to enroll in at West Haven High School once they complete eighth grade.

The approximately 11 middle-schoolers had previously expressed an interest in pursuing such a program in high school and beyond. Bailey Assistant Principal Valerie Bruneau and WHHS Assistant Principal John DellaCamera came up with the idea for the visit during a Food Services Committee meeting this fall.

“Bailey students interested in culinary classes often consider attending technical schools for high school, but WHHS has its own quality program that we thought they should learn more about,” Bruneau said. “Setting up a visit for the kids and showing them the WHHS kitchen, bringing them to culinary classes, and letting them talk to current students really helped them get a better understanding of their options at WHHS.”

Students met with West Haven Public Schools Food Services Director Meg Kingston, toured the WHHS kitchen, and then spent a few class periods with culinary teacher Dana Kent. Currently, WHHS offers Food Skills and Nutrition I, Careers in Food and Nutrition and Culinary Arts classes.

“You’re going to learn mixing methods, how to do all of this on your own, how to improvise, how to make food healthier, where you can save money,” Kent told the prospective culinary students.

When students reach the upper-level Culinary Arts classes, part of the curriculum is to help run the Culinary Café, a lunch service offered by the students to WHHS staff. Students help prepare weekly menus, take orders, make the food (which last week included New England clam chowder, Philly cheesesteaks, salmon burgers on brioche buns, buffalo chicken wraps and desserts), and then make deliveries to staff.

Bailey students had the chance to watch demonstrations during their visit, as Kent made molasses cookies and macaroons, and then helped Culinary Arts students prepare food for the Culinary Café. Kent also offered advice on careers in the food industry, encouraging students to study the business end of food service management as well as culinary arts.

“You really want to keep your options open. After being in this industry for a while, you might want to do something different. Food service is not just about working in restaurants: There’s product development, corporate dining, food brokers, sales reps for food distributors,” said Kent, who studied culinary and business in college at Johnson and Wales University in Rhode Island.

WHHS senior and Culinary Arts student Jessica Saunders said she may minor in food management in college and is interested in majoring in criminal justice. She currently helps supervise the Culinary Café and spends her lunch period in the classroom prepping food that will soon be delivered to staff.

“It’s a nice environment in these classes. It’s all hands-on,” Saunders said before helping Bailey students wrap brownies for the Culinary Café.

Bailey eighth-grader Mariah Trent said she was glad to have the opportunity to visit the class and is leaning toward attending WHHS rather than a tech school. She hopes to eventually have a job in catering or teaching culinary arts and became interested in cooking by helping her grandmother in the kitchen.

“I liked how we got to see how the food was made instead of just reading the recipe today,” she said. “And I liked how the teacher interacted with us and answered our questions and asked for our feedback.”

For Kent, the key is educating students about different careers the food industry can offer them and how they can best prepare for the future.

“I think it’s good for them to realize that there’s more out there and there are different avenues in the business,” Kent said. “They still need strong classes in the core academics so they have more options later, but there are so many different areas they can explore.”


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