Houston Secondary School students and staff are feasting on an array of professionally-prepared, six-course meals.
Nine professional cook students prepare the HSS lunch buffets every morning as part of their hands-on training.
Instructor Avi Sternberg says the morning replicates a restaurant kitchen atmosphere, with each pair of students preparing one section of the meal.
HSS Principal Scott Jackson says lunches have been amazing.
There is “a wide range of menu choices and it is always high-end. It has not been great for my waistline, but I am eating there several times each week,” Jackson said.
As an ACE-IT program, the course enrols five high school students and four adults.
It is run in the HSS kitchen and takes 28 solid weeks.
Students spend their first hour doing classroom theory about food safe, handling food and preparing various dishes.
After that, they hit the kitchen to prepare the lunch buffet.
Every Friday, students tackle an online exam about the theory they learned that week.
Adult student Dot Middleton is a stay-at-home Mom and says taking the course is a great learning experience.
“I like trying different recipes that I haven’t made before,” she said.
“My family seems to enjoy it.”
Adult student Angela Ettinger is a previous employee of Houston Forest Products, which closed down May 2014.
“After the shutdown I wanted a change in career so I decided to take this,” Ettinger said.
She enjoys learning how cook more complex foods.
“We are preparing foods that I haven’t really tried or even know what they are,” she said.
“It’s pretty interesting.”
Instructor Sternberg says students catered the local Science Fair, a dinner with the Lieutenant Governor of B.C., and a lunch with the Minister of Education at HSS.
They also toured the Sausage Factory, Ambrosia Sheep Farm and W. Diamond Ranch in Telkwa.
“These catering opportunities, as well as touring the organic food places, allows the students to be exposed to different parts of the industry,” said Sternberg.
“By catering, they actually get a live-action sense of timing and a sense of interaction with people outside of the classroom.”
After the course, students are qualified to become apprentices in the industry or they can go on to take the level two course.
Sternberg says most students end up working at restaurants or become camp cooks.
Grade 11 high school student Myles Kendall said he took the course because it opens opportunities.
“I know that everywhere in the world they are really looking for cooks,” he said.
“I think this is the easiest way to get out and travel.”
Kendall says the course taught him new baking and cooking techniques and also how to be ready and on top of things.
Sternberg says one thing he enjoys about teaching is learning from his students.
“Students are the best form of education for yourself,” Sternberg said.
“They really challenge you to ask questions.”
But the most rewarding part of teaching for Sternberg is seeing students grow.
The reward is “watching the growth of the student, not just with cooking skills and knowledge, but life skills like coming to class on time, human interaction and communication skills,” he said.
“It prepares them for real life.”