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Culinary class seeks to teach cooking, life lessons

Posted: November 15, 2017 - 2:59am
Culinary students make preparations for an upcoming catering event.
Culinary students make preparations for an upcoming catering event.

Lora Hydrick uses culinary etiquette to teach her students about the importance of life skills.

On a typical day at Grovetown High School, Hydrick - who is customarily decked out in a standard chef's uniform - can be found presenting PowerPoint slides on pasta recipes, critiquing students over their shoulder as they dice tomatoes or looking over finished recipes.

In a class comprised of dozens of ninth to 12th grade students, Hydrick's mission is to teach students life skills in the form of cooking instruction.

"It still makes them excited about cooking even if they are not going to do this for a living," Hydrick said. "They still have skills they can use to feed their families in this generation of fast food and frozen food. These kids are learning, and saying ‘oh my gosh; I didn't know food could taste like this.' And it really isn't that difficult. You just have to enjoy the process and make the time."

After students are promoted from the Introduction to Culinary Arts class, students participate in an advanced culinary class centered on attaining the ServeSafe certification. Daily instruction includes digital and teacher presentations, hands-on training, trial and error judgment, and once the ServeSafe certification is attained, students cater for their own school as well as the community.

Hydrick said the planning of her advanced culinary arts course includes preparing student's to serve recipes to the community. The name of this type of instruction, she said, is live work.

The types of events students serve food at include sports banquets, the Columbia County Board of Education and Columbia County Chamber of Commerce meetings and lunches for teachers and school staff.

While school instruction is important, Hydrick said exposing students to community catering is an invaluable experience.

"It's real-world experience," Hydrick said. "It gets them up out of their seats. It gets them in the environment that they want to know about. I see the benefit for students who are thinking about doing this for a career. It will make them decide if they want this experience, or they might decide it is not what they thought it was going to be. It can take them either way."

Just recently, students catered a meal for 300 people at the Bus Driver Appreciation Luncheon. Grovetown students also made and served dessert at the Columbia County State of the Community Address this month.

Upcoming catering events will be a Thanksgiving meal preparation for faculty and staff, as well as sports banquets.

Aside from whipping up dishes for locals in the community and school district superiors, in an effort to expose students to the next level of culinary arts, advanced students have an opportunity to journey to Johnson & Wales University-Charlotte and the Arts Institute in Charleston. Hydrick said she also organizes state competitions.

Best practice culinary arts instruction, however, only goes so far. Like any profession, Hydrick said she is interested in seeing the fruits of her labor, which would be seeing students excel after graduation.

Juan Rodriguez, a 2016 Grovetown High School graduate, took his culinary arts skills cultivated under Hydrick to the next level. Rodriguez, Hydrick said, finished up his first year, and is now going in his second year of his culinary arts degree at Johnson & Wales. The degree he is pursuing is a two-year degree, but Hydrick said Rodriguez is also a pursuing a four-year hotel management degree.

Grovetown 2015 graduate Destiny Neal graduated from Johnson & Wales in 2016, and is currently working for Walt Disney World. There are many more examples of Grovetown culinary graduates doing some extraordinary things in the world, and to Hydrick, this is the norm, as these students display it every day in the classroom.

"They really do amazing work in the kitchen," she said. "They have so much pride in their work and their finished product, even if it's something as simple as a muffin, it's something that they created from flour, sugar and eggs."

 

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