Culinary students learn by catering, competing, creatingJun 07, 2021 12:30PM ● By Jet Burnham
Herriman High students get hands-on experience cooking for ProStart competitions and for real-world catering jobs. (Leslie Brock/Herriman High School)
By Jet Burnham | [email protected]
The churro cupcakes with dulce de leche filling, cinnamon frosting and a fresh churro on top were a hit at the wedding luncheon for Jenifer Glassey’s son.
“I even had to hide one of the cupcakes in the back because they went so fast and I wanted to be able to eat one,” she said. “I still crave those cupcakes.”
Glassey, who teaches in the Family and Consumer Sciences department at Herriman High School, said her guests were shocked when she told them the professional-looking cupcakes and the tres leches cake were made by high school students.
The students, who are a part of HHS’s ProStart culinary program, gained catering experience and enjoyed seeing guests enjoy their creations.
“I love to cook and I love that it brings people joy,” ProStart student Hailey Hellwig said.
The news quickly spread about the professional appearance and delicious taste of the students’ desserts and they received more catering requests.
When HHS FACS teacher Kristi Johnson had just 10 days notice for her wedding reception this spring, ProStart instructor Leslie Brock organized students to make three dozen lemon-raspberry tarts and three dozen churro cupcakes with caramel centers.
“They all worked really fast and made our special day even more amazing,” Johnson said. “The desserts were elegant, tasted amazing and were a complete hit.”
The students catered two more weddings this spring—for a student-teacher and for the mother of a student—and provided desserts for school and community events.
HHS CTE Coordinator Julianna Wing was proud to highlight students’ “legendary churro cupcakes” for the Jordan District FBLA state awards celebration dinner.
The catering jobs, which earn a small profit that is reinvested into the program, provide a professional experience for students.
“What we're learning from this is how to do real-world work,” ProStart student Chase Williams said.
Another student, Emma Gulbranson, said catering jobs have taught her the importance of consistency.
“We have to be consistent with all of the products we put out—they have to look all the same,” she said.
ProStart students also learn teamwork which prepares them for work in the culinary industry.
“Working in the culinary industry takes a really good work ethic—it's not easy stuff,” Hellwig said. “You really have to buckle down, get working and take your time to get things right the first time.”
Students gain experience cooking under pressure at food competitions. The national ProStart competition was cancelled this year, however, the Utah Restaurant Association hosted a state competition for 16 high schools in March. HHS’s team placed in the middle of the very close competition, with just 6.5 points between them and the second place team (Bingham.)
Whether the food they prepare is for a grade, a catering job, a competition or family members, students are expected to adhere to safety, sanitation and quality standards.
“They've learned that they have to have quality standards right from the beginning and that definitely transfers out into the real world when they're working at a restaurant,” Brock said. “Whatever they are putting out to the public has to have that standard, just like it does in class.”
Students get restaurant experience planning and preparing complete lunches—appetizers, entrees, desserts—for HHS faculty in an in-school restaurant.
“I really get on them about making sure that their food is consistent, that it is presented the way it should be presented and is presented well,” Brock said. “I refuse to serve something that doesn't look up to par to one of our faculty.”
ProStart students also run a business in the school cafeteria, called the Pro Pop, making and selling flavored sodas and cake pops. They have developed 15 school-themed soda creations, such as the Mustang Royal, the Muddy Mustang and their most popular drink, Bad Decisions (Dr Pepper, raspberry and coconut syrups, with cream on top.)
Students graduate from the ProStart program with a ServSafe Manager Certificate, prepared to work in the restaurant industry or attend culinary school. Beginning next year, students will be able to get a headstart on a culinary degree—HHS will be offering concurrent enrollment culinary classes.