Students get taste of culinary arts  

Students in Becky Williams’ after school cooking class at KCSOS’s North Kern Community School have been learning the basics of culinary arts this fall.

The sounds of chopping and teenage camaraderie were ample on a recent Monday afternoon, while the wonderful makings of pasta with meat sauce, salad and garlic bread filled the air.

Now in its fourth year, the class incorporates math, science and reading skills into the curriculum. Williams says perhaps the most valuable lesson, though, are the practical team work and collaboration skills the students take with them out into the community.

Before students take to the kitchen to prepare their chosen meal, they spend time together researching recipes, cooking techniques and nutrition. They prepare a budget and grocery list, then take a field trip to a nearby supermarket to shop for their ingredients.

“This type of project-based learning is something the students really benefit from,” Williams said.

The class received a much-needed enhancement earlier this year when a grant was funded through Chevron’s Fuel Your School/Donor’s Choose program. The grant allowed Williams to purchase things like a new stock pot, frying pan, sauce pan, cookie sheet, muffin pan and silicone grips.

To supplement their class and kitchen instruction, every December, Williams’ students are among 200 students from California who visit the Partners in Nutrition Cooperative (PinCo) Food Show to sample and rate healthy food items designed for school meals. The students’ feedback provides valuable insight right from the consumer so cooperative officials can make informed purchasing decisions for next school year.

“After the field trip, we discuss what we tasted and have a short writing lesson on how we can persuade administrators to change the menu based on a comparison thinking map,” Williams said.

Students enrolled in the class who maintain good attendance can earn up to 5 credits, but the practical lessons student learn can last a lifetime. At least one student who was formally in Williams’ class is now enrolled in Bakersfield College’s culinary arts programs.