Nauset Culinary Arts at NRHS - Real Food for a Healthy Future
~ What is Nauset Culinary? ~
The Nauset Culinary Arts program
is not a professional tech-style prep program, though a few of our students do head for culinary schools like Johnson & Wales and the Culinary Institute of America each year. For most, it’s a one to three class elective experience. With that in mind, my goals for my students focus on a few main points:
- Because most of them will likely work in some type of food establishment during their high school years and beyond - from ice cream shops to delis to restaurants - I do teach and operate by ServSafe standards. Personal and workspace cleanliness standards aimed at foodborne illness and kitchen accident prevention are stressed every time we prepare food. During the school year, students have the experience of making and selling food for both our own school community and the public. Students make food, take orders, package food and deliver orders.
- Because we truly are what we eat from a health standpoint, my emphasis with curating and updating our recipe collection focuses on finding the healthiest versions possible without sacrificing flavor. Obtaining the freshest (and preferably local and organic) food possible is a big part of being able to make healthy food that tastes good. I have developed partnerships with a few local farms who donate large amounts of their harvest to our program so that we can access this bounty in the spring and into late fall. We make pickles, preserves and dehydrated fruits in order to have a few local foods available even in the winter months. All of my students leave each semester having mastered several dishes. To build confidence, they have at least 2 cook-at-home assignments to take what they’ve learned home to share with their families, a “What’s In The Cupboard?” class where they have 5 minutes to decide upon a dish to make with their teams based on whatever we have available and varied challenges, including an Iron Chef-style team competition. In this challenge, students create a healthy breakfast menu, shopping list and strategy for the competition. Guest judges select winning teams who receive gift certificates donated by local restaurants.
- Because cooking food should be a joy, I introduce students to recipes from around the world – new foods, spices and flavorings – and encourage them to experiment with these new flavors; to create their own signature recipes after mastering the originals. The key to success is that students have learned to use the basic tools of the trade and how to read and follow a recipe to produce desirable results. It is so much fun to watch those creative juices flow as they try to come up with their own take on a particular food. Regardless of results, students truly enjoy being set free now and then to flex their culinary muscles!
Where Does Your Food Come From? ~~~
It is increasingly important for us to be aware of where the food that comes to our table is from. I want our students to know where they can find locally grown & raised foods and to learn ways to preserve the harvest when it is at its freshest and most nutritious. We take a “farm-hopping” field trip touring 3 local farms and an aquaculture grant, meeting the farmers and completing a sort of scavenger hunt to identify plants and ask questions of the farmer about their farms, CSAs and Farmers Markets. I get as much food as possible from these farms so that we can continue that connection. The fall Farm & Sea-To-Table event is focused on eating locally. Students, fishermen, farmers and local restaurants all come together to create some brilliantly delectable local foods while raising funds to help us to buy more local and organic foods for students to cook with. It is the most successful of our 3 big fundraising events and an important community building opportunity.
Travel is education and, in today's world, immersing ourselves in other cultures teaches us just how alike we are as human beings and lays the groundwork for growing understanding and acceptance. Learning how to make paella in the home of a cooking teacher in Barcelona, sitting down to dinner with a local family in France and exchanging ideas, learning about world events where they are happening, visiting farms, shops and extraordinary markets to shop for food you will later that night transform into an authentic and delicious local meal, learning how to make pasta or gelato by hand in the country it originated in, visiting world famous monuments and museums, seeing some of the most inspiring art, architecture, antiquities and natural beauty in the world and understanding cultures other than your own .... these are all experiences not available in the pages of a book or even through videos - not in the way that firsthand experience impacts your worldview.
In June, 2017, we inaugurated our Culinary Travel program with a trip to EF Tour’s Global Student Leadership Summit on the Future of Food. We travelled through Spain and France, taking cooking classes, visiting farms and marketplaces, having dinners with locals and much more. We then gathered with 1800 other students and educators for the summit in Milan. Students were split into teams and given food related challenges to attempt to solve using experiential learning techniques. Students and teachers had the opportunity to participate in a series of workshops with world-class speakers. The experience was truly life-changing for some of my students. This spring, we head for Spain & Italy for a Culinary & The Arts trip!