SHS culinary arts boiling over
FARMER’S KORNER – Eighteen of Summit High School’s most accomplished culinary students spent Thursday afternoon basting, broiling and braising. The class has only met twice so far this school year, but it wasted no time sharpening its skills for some of the toughest critics in Summit County.The students will prepare their peach-glazed pork tenderloin, herbed lemon chicken and roasted root vegetables tonight for 100 members of the Summit County Restaurant Association at the organization’s kickoff dinner for its annual golf tournament. And they’ll do it all with kitchen appliances you’d find in the average home.”I’m training chefs, but this is the old household kitchen,” said culinary arts teacher Terri Vantiger. “The students’ knowledge, numbers and needs have outgrown the four electric stoves we have.”
The SHS culinary arts classroom is equipped with two standard refrigerators, four electric ranges and ovens, a few kitchen sinks and rows of cabinets. But Vantiger isn’t teaching home economics. She’s training her students for jobs and careers in the restaurant industry.The program’s students regularly walk away from state and regional competitions with trophies and ribbons. For the last two years, Summit High School students have placed in the top 10 in the national Best Teen Chef in America competition. Several of the SHS program’s graduates have gone on to train at culinary schools and pursue careers in the food industry.And the program is as popular as it is successful. The SHS facilities are designed for 12-student classes, but class sizes regularly swell to double that number. Last fall, more than 500 SHS students requested to be enrolled in culinary arts classes, Vantiger said.To prepare for competitions, Vantiger transports her students over Swan Mountain Road to the Keystone Conference Center, where they spend weeks practicing in a professional setting the high school can’t provide.
“We don’t have the space to practice what we want to do,” said senior Meg Schuman. “For the people who want to go into the culinary arts, it’s a privilege to go over to Keystone.”Vantiger and her students are crossing their fingers that someday they’ll have access to an industrial kitchen facility within the walls of Summit High School. They envision a walk-in cooler and freezer, Hobart dough-mixers, gas stoves and large grills. Whether that dream ever becomes a reality depends upon the generosity of Summit County voters.On Nov. 2, the school district will ask voters to approve a $32.5 million bond issue, almost $5 million of which is earmarked for a new career and technical education wing at SHS, which would likely house expanded culinary space. Voters will also decide on a three-year mill levy which would provide for technical upgrades to the program’s equipment, among other maintenance and technology needs throughout the school district.
“The better the equipment is, the better the educational experience is going to be,” said Frisco restaurateur Dan Fallon, who will host Monday night’s dinner at Barkley’s West. “That experience puts them on the inside track to access more opportunities at an earlier age.” The proposed career and technical wing would also allow for expansion of SHS’s business technology and multimedia technology instruction. Construction and health care top the district’s wish list for new programs.Julie Sutor can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 203, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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