Hot Springs school culinary class proves to be a community treat

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Hot Springs High School culinary arts instructor Brenda Haase works with students Morgan Hoff and Johua Grahan on a cupcake decorating project. (Chuck Bandel/Valley Press)

Could there be a five-star chef in the class?

Possibly. At the very least, the Culinary Arts program at Hot Springs High School offers students a chance to learn new skills and find work while in college or while they search for their life career.

Under the guidance of instructor Brenda Haase, who changed careers herself several years ago, the program goes beyond the Home Economics courses available to the last generation.

“This program moves beyond the old household management courses of previous years,” Haase said. “This is more like a job skills program that falls under thecareer technical education category. There could possibly be students who want to be chefs, but even if not it can provide a way for them to get a job while they work their way toward their eventual career.”

The five-day-a-week culinary arts program is an academic year-long course.

Students gather for one hour each day to learn the finer points of baking, cooking and food presentation.

The program offers two levels of learning, Culinary Art 1 and 2, and is backed by the Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA), a national career and technical student support organization. The group offers intra-curricular resources and opportunities to pursue careers in programs like the one at Hot Springs High.

“I’m taking the classes because I think it would be nice if my husband didn’t have to cook his own meals,” said sophomore Morgan Hoff, looking to her future. “I enjoy learning this a lot.”

Among class projects this past week were creation from scratch of cupcakes, which the four students, two boys and two girls, were intently frosting and decorating. Many of the finished products are sold to help support the Culinary Arts Program.

During the year, the students also prepare and serve lunch to the school’s teachers once a month. They have also baked special request items from members of the community, such as special occasion cakes and other foods.

“There’s no bakery here in Hot Springs so we get to help people who want something they can’t get here in town,” said Hoff.

A major part of the learning focuses on food handling and safety, which students can then use to obtain a food handlers card, which is required by many potential employers in everything from food stores to restaurants.

The training, as well as similar teaching, allows for a non-traditional approach to the overall student education experience.

“The program is not just for girls anymore,” said Haase, who returned to college at age 40 to get her teaching certificate and has been the Culinary Arts instructor at HSHS for the past year-and-one-half. “These days we’ve found that some of the best students at sewing are boys.”

Freshman Joshua Grahan is one of the students who may end up being a chef.

“I’m here to learn about cooking and maybe one day become a chef,” Grahan said while squeezing chocolate frosting onto cupcakes.

Others, such as sophomore Jasen Cheadanan had other interests while frosting and decorating.

“Do we get to eat the cupcakes?” he asked. The previous class left with cheesy baked potatoes on a plate as they headed for their next class.

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