Dinner gives culinary students a chance to show off skills

Cooking for family

The Career Academy Culinary Program students lined up to wash their hands and don gloves before preparing the Fall for Louisiana Salad they were serving at their celebration of the family dinner.

“The best way to toss a salad is with your hands,” chef Lauren Guy said as she demonstrated. “Be sure and turn everything over.”

“Lillie (Franklin) and I made the salad’s sugarcane vinaigrette,” senior Olivia Shegog told a visitor as she ladled vinaigrette into the salad bowl.

The students showed off their culinary skills and emphasized the importance of families eating together by hosting a “family dinner” on Nov. 14 at the Baton Rouge school’s culinary lab on the Capitol High campus for members of their families and community leaders.

As part of their training, the 20 students in the public charter high school’s ProStart Program planned the event from invitations and table settings to cooking, serving and cleaning up. They were supervised by Guy, who leads the culinary program and also runs food service in the school cafeteria, and by Nicole Gerard, who is a ProStart instructor and teaches Family and Consumer Sciences.

In addition to the salad, the dinner menu included white cheddar grits topped with Gulf shrimp in a Creole sauce, toast points, Louisiana pecan pie bars with vanilla ice cream and a chocolate drizzle, and coffee. The menu’s use of Gulf shrimp, Louisiana-grown satsumas and pecans is because “we wanted to focus on Louisiana produce and foods,” Guy said.

The family-themed project was supported by a grant from the Pennington Family Foundation and in-kind donations from Manda Meats, Capitol City Produce, New Orleans Fish House, Community Coffee, Margo Bouanchaud Catering, Kleinpeter Dairy and Lance Hayes Flowers.

Guy explained the school’s culinary program, open to Career Academy and Capitol High School students, is ProStart Program-certified by the Louisiana Restaurant Association.

Students start the two-year ProStart Program when they are juniors. When they complete 400 hours of internship and pass testing, they get five-year food service industry certification.

In the ProStart program, “they are taught the front of the house and back of the house — management, all segments of hospitality,” Gerard said.

As Gerard watched students carefully arrange five satsumas on each salad, she added, “We talk a lot about making plates as appealing as possible.”

Some of the students also submitted favorite family recipes for Career Academy’s “Celebrating the Family Dinner” recipe book.

Senior Re’Shard Reed offered a recipe for Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes, a favorite at his family’s annual reunion. There’s always a lot of food at the reunions, he said.

“We pass these foods down from generation to generation and that is why it is important.” The recipe is “something my auntie (Ura Hamilton) does. It’s my favorite dish.”

Reed said he’s been “cooking ever since I can remember.” Everyone in the family, especially “my dad, Richard Reed Jr., really pushed me” in cooking.

The student wants to attend a Le Cordon Bleu school, “go for the best thing I can afford.”

Shegog submitted recipes for Tang Pie and Blueberry Cobbler.

“The Tang Pie has been in my family for a long time. The cobbler has not been made since my grandmother, Lucille Wade, died in 2009, but she always made it for Thanksgiving. I don’t have the touch she had. Nothing can be as good as your grandmother made it.”

The senior would like to go to college and then open a bakery in Seattle.

Jashawna Hayes, who greeted guests as they arrived for the school’s family dinner, offered a Cajun jambalaya recipe. “Me and my mom make it. It’s just something we like as a family.”

Hayes enrolled in the culinary program to learn more about cooking, but she plans to go to nursing school. “I work at the McDonald’s at Burbank and Bluebonnet. I work the window and make sandwiches.” The job, she added, has taught her “how to work with different kinds of people and deal with customers.”

Steven Dixon, who served the entrees during the school’s family dinner, carefully rearranged the plates as he set them on the table. “I want everything in tiptop shape to impress” the guests.

Dixon, an 18-year-old senior, also is enrolled in the Baton Rouge Community College’s industrial maintenance program.

He submitted a recipe for Pasta Carbonara that his grandmother, Mildred Ewing, was making for Thanksgiving. “In my opinion, it’s very good. It’s a new recipe she tried and added her own touches.”

Senior Tierra Bell made up her recipe for fruit salad. She included all of her favorite fruits — pineapple, strawberries, green apples, watermelon and grapes.

A recipe for Stuffed Bell Pepper came from Dacia Young, who said it’s one her mother, LaShawne Wilson, makes often.

Tuesday Campbell provided her favorite recipe to prepare when the family gathers to watch football games.

She said the Honey Mustard Chicken Fingers are quick and easy.

John Miller, vice president of Baton Rouge Coca Cola, and Matt Saurage, CEO of Community Coffee, chaired the Nov. 14 event. They said they believe in the benefits of parents and children eating together as often as possible.

For more information, go to CareerAcademyBR.org or LRCE.org.