Posted Date: 09/01/2022
It’s hard to walk by Room 306 at Atlanta High School without wondering what’s going on inside. The enticing smell of the dish of the day is noticeable before the door even opens. That’s because students in the Culinary Arts program are cooking up their latest cuisine.
As part of the district’s Career and Technical Education program, the Culinary Arts courses have seen considerable growth in the past four years. The hands-on instruction makes these classes engaging for students, and instructor Beth Boyd ensures their activities have easy application to real world experiences. Their catering services do just that.
The group has prepared food for school board meetings, football team dinners and the Friday night press box.
“This gives them real world experience in how they have to plan for the event,” Boyd said. “If they have a menu in mind, they have to figure out how much of each ingredient to buy, how long it’s going to take to prepare it and how they are going to transport it. They get a mindset of what you have to do in order to make some money doing what you love to do.”
For junior Amiyah Stephens, this aligns with her career goal of owning a Southern-style restaurant.
“My mom is a chef and has her own business,” Stephens said. “I want to follow in her footsteps.”
This is Stephens’ third year in the program, and she’s seen considerable improvement in her cooking and knife-handling skills and is working toward her ServSafe Manager’s certification.
The Servsafe Management Program is a national program that provides food service employees with the training and education to ensure that restaurants stay on top of the various regulatory requirements for every state. It also ensures that their certifications prepare students to implement essential food safety practices.
Through a partnership with Texarkana College, students in the dual credit program can receive this certification as well as college credit.
Even those who are unsure of their future plans have been able to put what they’ve learned to use. Junior Cha’nya Clark, who works at a local fast food restaurant, said she better understands the food service business.
“It helps me know things like how to keep your area sanitized and the food safe, which helps keep everyone else safe,” Clark said. “It teaches you stuff about cross contamination and pathogens. It’s really helpful.”
Boyd agreed, saying that her students who work in food service are better able to notice safety hazards in their workplace.
“It makes them understand what needs to be done in a professional setting, not just the high school kitchen,” Boyd said.
The students say another positive aspect about the program is having Boyd as a teacher.
“She didn’t only want me to focus in this class, she helped me in all my other classes,” Stephens said. “She made sure I was passing and helped me get back on track with everything. We’ve just been really close since the first day I got here.”
Boyd knew she always wanted to work with kids and enjoys helping them overcome obstacles and meet their goals.
“I make sure the kids know that I don’t put any limitations on them,” Boyd said. “Even though they may have limitations, they can overcome those in the kitchen. They can do what everybody else does. Some of my most rewarding experiences are seeing the kids accomplish a job from start to finish and feel good about what they do.”
For the students, their reward is often getting to eat what they cooked.
“Be prepared to cook, and if you don’t know how to cook, you’re going to learn,” Clark said. “But you get to eat, and it’s really good.”