Cultivating culinary skills

Posted: Wednesday, December 15, 2004


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  A student arranges a plate of the finished candy before placing it in a refrigerator to cool. Photo by M. Scott Moon

Racheal Gerke and Jenni Garrsion prepare chocolate truffles in a culinary arts class at Nikiski High School Tuesday morning. This year is the first time the class has been offered at the school.

Photo by M. Scott Moon

The culinary class at Nikiski Middle-Senior High School has been treating students well these days with chocolate truffles and chocolate coconut crunch projects.

For the past few weeks, the class has focused on making sweets they can take home for the holidays. Students are getting knowledge and skills needed to satisfy the sweet tooth.

Teacher,Darlene Conright said the class is doing holiday gifts like candies, gingerbread ornaments and chocolates.

"I give them some of my own recipes and some that I find doing research, or kids tell what they are interested doing,:Conright said. "The nice thing about the class is that you can make the recipes however you like. They expand on the base I give them."

This is the first year for the culinary class and, subsequently, the first year Conright has taught it. She said it is important to have the class in the curriculum for high school kids because of its relation to the arts. This has been especially important since there was no band program this semester and no art program at Nikiski, she said.

"The class fills the void. Cooking is a lot like music and art because there is an element of creativity. It is definitely a creative outlet, but it is also helpful training for the kids because people need to be capable in the kitchen," Conright said.

Principal, John Owens said the student polls from last spring indicated high interest in culinary arts.

"People are generally getting into cooking more. We were looking for a creative elective, and this is it. I've heard kids talking about becoming professional chefs now," he said.

Owens said the class also was attractive be cause of practical gains.

"The benefits are life skills. It teaches necessary and functional knowledge, plus there are elements of math and measuring and creativity. We're hoping to keep the class around," he said.


A student arranges a plate of the finished candy before placing it in a refrigerator to cool.

Photo by M. Scott Moon

Several students have been using their newly acquired cooking skills at home, turning their families into study groups.

"The students have project surveys they take home. Their homework is cooking more and doing the same thing they do at school, and the feedback from parents has been really helpful. It's great to see that some of the kids have realized they are learning life skills and are using them," she said.

Kenny Fagan,sophomore, said the class is useful to practical living and he makes some of the foods at home.

"The potato soup recipe was a good one, but I was the only one that ate it," Fagan said.

These life skills have been paying off for the faculty of Nikiski, as well, keeping the front office supplied with cooking creations.

Romayne Hindman, the attendance secretary, said she enjoys the residual benefits of the class.

"They made all the cookies for the PTA meeting. They also let the faculty sample what they make during school," she said.

The reasons some students take the class may not be for a passion of the culinary arts or even for creativity, but to enliven their taste buds.

Erica Thye,junior, said she took the class because it was a chance to make a variety of dishes they could eat.

"The class sounded cool, and we get to eat what we make in the morning. Sometimes we bring cookies to our next classes, and sometimes we share."

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