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Culinary Arts gives ‘real life’ experience
September 03, 2015 Jerry Purvis   

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Courtesy Photo - Stevie Gable’s Culinary Arts students serve refreshments during the Blue Gold open house to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the current Gering High School building. From left are Tommy Hinds, Stevie Gable, Brianna Fitts, Mariah Conn and Courtney Conn.

After several years of absence, Gering High School is restarting its Culinary Arts program to give students real life experience into cooking for commercial restaurants.

Instructor Stevie Gable, who also teaches the Foods I and Foods II classes, said the program is for juniors and seniors. “They have to have taken the foods classes to be eligible,” she said. This is the first year we’ve offered it again. It works well with the idea of a career academy the schools are pursuing.”

Gable said that going into the class, she wants to give students an experience so they know what the food industry is really like and what skills are needed to work in the industry.

“Some of the kids in the class already have a goal of becoming chefs or going to a culinary arts school after graduation,” she said. “I want to prep them in what that’s really like.”

The class starts with the most important topic – sanitation and the safe preparation of food. Students are required to pass a test on the topic by at least 90 percent. “I did a review of the test with the students and their comments were it was hard,” Gable said. “But this is a rigorous course and students need to be prepared for hard work.”
After covering food safety and sanitation, the class will practice knife skills, which Gable said may take some time, as the skill is more difficult than it looks. But uniform knife cuts are essential to assuring foods cook evenly.

“After the basics, we’ll learn about sauces and work our way through meats, poultry, seafood and other upper level cuisine,” she said. “We couldn’t do that in the huge settings that are Foods I and II.”
Along the way, students learn about how cooking alters food, both dry and moist cooking techniques, and nutrition. Later on, they cover baking techniques and learning bread and pastry recipes.

There are 13 students in Gable’s class, which she calls “totally manageable.” She also said it’s exciting for her to have repeat students she taught before in Foods I and II.

“The class has been very responsive and they’re looking forward to getting their chef coats,” she said. “And we’ve had great response from the community. The chef at the Steel Grill wants to get involved and getting students into his kitchen for real time experience.”
She told the students that kind of experience can really get their foot in the door to start their careers.

“I’ve been wanting to teach a class like this for a really long time but we just’ didn’t have room in our schedules,” Gable said. “Now that we’re moving into career academies, this is pathway for exploring careers in the food industry.”

Gable said that as the semester progresses, the student will take over running the kitchen as chefs and sous chefs and she’ll be there to supervise and assist.

“They’re going to have to delegate, brainstorm their own recipes and dividing up the tasks the team needs to do and then managing their time so the whole process comes together smoothly,” she said.
She added that food networks and the celebrity chefs they promote has raised awareness across the country as to what the industry is really like.

“It’s hard work,” Gable said. “A chef is working nights and weekends because they’re the restaurant’s busiest times. It’s not an eight to five job. Three kids have already expressed a serious interest going to culinary school, so I hope I don’t change their minds after this year.”
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