A small group of students and staff members are treated to a gourmet feast about once a month in a Heritage High School classroom.
Students in the new culinary arts program serve dishes such as pork tenderloin with sorghum gastrique, pimento cheese grits and caramel pie under the leadership of chef Kevin Green.
“He’s doing amazing things,” said Alisa Teffeteller, Blount County Schools supervisor of career and technical education.
“I like the art and science of food and the sport of it,” said Green, who also runs a personal chef and catering business. His former teachers at William Blount High School include Pat Lafon and Marty Durand, who currently leads the culinary program there.
The HHS culinary arts program began this school year, and students typically spend three days receiving instruction and two days a week with hands-on work.
In the former family and consumer science space with three small home-like kitchen bays, they have to take turns working and have a limited budget for food, which they’ve supplemented with fundraisers such as selling pancakes for breakfast.
Last fall, Principal Jake Jones asked Green whether his students could prepare lunches for a new Student of the Month program that recognizes about four students in every grade and a couple of staff members. They held their fourth event April 6.
“It makes it more fun, and they get to spread their wings and fly,” Green said of the experience the lunches give his culinary students. They learn to plan and prep meals, and experience the flow and potential chaos of a real working kitchen.
Jones takes a few minutes during the luncheon to tell each student and staff member being honored why they are special and appreciated at the school, for attributes such as their work ethic, attitude, leadership and persistence.
The culinary students can see for themselves how the food they create delights others during the luncheons.
Learning how to cook is an important life skill, Green noted, and at the higher levels of the culinary classes, students also will be able to earn certifications required in the restaurant industry through programs such as ServSafe.
School kitchen to work
Senior Mary Albright was so excited about the new culinary classes at Heritage that she stopped at the school three times over the past summer to ensure she would be in the first class.
“I have always been in the kitchen,” Albright said, adding she cooks with her mother. She understands how important cooking can be from experiences such as making pizza that is safe for her brother James, who has food allergies.
In the culinary classes she has learned safety techniques from how to properly sanitize a countertop to how to ensure chicken is cooked to the proper temperature. She also has honed knife skills such as how to julienne vegetables and create a chiffonade of greens.
“Chef Kevin is a great teacher,” she said.
Through him she also began working at RT Lodge, gaining experience in various types of food preparation.
“I’m in the kitchen getting to do what I love,” Albright said.
After graduation she wants to spend a year traveling the United States and France to experience different cuisines before continuing her culinary education at Johnson and Wales University.
Green has expanded the cooking and tasting of Heritage students well beyond a grilled cheese sandwich, exposing them to foods and techniques that might be unfamiliar.
While introducing the menu at the April luncheon, for example, he explained that the frittata was a baked egg dish.
Even Jones admitted that although he’s not usually a fan of Brussels sprouts, when the culinary students served them at one of the luncheons, “It was excellent.”
The chicken and shrimp gumbo was a big hit, too.