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Cabarrus Magazine

Culinary Arts Go to High School

Sep 01, 2017 08:30AM ● By Jason Huddle

Culinary Arts Go to High School

Today’s high school juniors are expected to know what they want to do professionally for the rest of their lives. For many, however, there is little clarity and the pressure to make a decision can be intimidating. 


Fortunately, Career and Technical Education (CTE) is offered in today’s schools, in the areas of Business and Information Technology, Family and Consumer Sciences, Health Occupations, Marketing, Technology, and Trade and Industrial Education.

CTE’s website describes its programs as, “developing America’s most valuable resource – its people; helping them gain the skills, technical knowledge, academic foundation and real-world experience they need to prepare for high-skill, high-demand, high-wage careers.

“CTE is organized by a national framework called Career ClustersTM, which presents a complete range of related career options to students of all ages, helps them discover their interests and passions, and empowers them to choose the educational pathway that can lead to success in high school, college and their chosen career.”

What these programs do is afford students the opportunity to delve into a profession, giving them a taste of what it’s like to be part of the economy and workforce. In Cabarrus County, CTE’s Culinary Arts program is available at Hickory Ridge High School in Harrisburg and at A.L. Brown High School in Kannapolis.

Rusty Parker is director of the CTE program at Cabarrus County Schools. “Hickory Ridge High School opened in the fall of 2007 with a culinary program. Prior to the school opening, there was not a full culinary program in the district. It was opened to offer students a culinary experience while in high school, but also to align programs with the growing hospitality industry in Cabarrus County and the surrounding area.”  

That’s because, as part of its curriculum, these chefs-in-training – under the supervision of Chef Felicia Pritchett, MS, and Lisa Palmer – work at Café 805. The school’s restaurant, it’s a converted classroom that can seat about 50. They also prepare meals for catered events both on- and off-site, like past Cabarrus Humane Society Spay-ghetti dinners and functions at the Cabarrus Arena & Events Center. Breakfasts, parties and picnics, guests can number in the hundreds.

Students are introduced to a professional kitchen: the center of their education universe. Parker explains the curriculum. “Foods 1 examines the nutritional needs of the individual. Emphasis is placed on the relationship of diet to health, kitchen and meal management, food preparation and sustainability for a global society, and time and resource management.

“In Introduction to Culinary Arts, basic safety and sanitation practices leading to a national industry-recognized food safety credential are introduced. Commercial equipment, smallwares, culinary math and basic knife skills in a commercial food service facility are taught.

“Culinary Arts 1 focuses on basic skills in cold and hot food production, baking and pastry, and service skills. Culinary Arts 2 provides advanced experiences in cold and hot food production, management (front and back of the house) and service skills. Topics include menu planning, business management and guest relations.

Even though the program is currently offered at Hickory Ridge High only, students from across the

district can be bused there to participate if there’s room. It’s offered over all four years of a student’s high school career.

“Students can take the courses as part of the Academy of Hospitality and Tourism, or as a student in a regular Career and Technical Education (CTE) program. The maximum class size for each course is 20 students,” Parker adds.

The Academy of Hospitality and Tourism goes deeper into the food service industry. Economics, business plans, management, safety, sanitation, customer service, etc., embody this program. CTE graduation rates have continually increased: from 93 percent in 2013 to 99 percent in 2016.

Kannapolis’ A.L. Brown High School completed its Stroup Arts Center in 2012. Replacing the old Vocational Building, it houses the CTE Culinary Arts program there.

Chef Mallory Harris is Brown’s CTE career development/special population coordinator. With Chef Nicholas Whittington as CTE teacher, they head the Culinary Arts program – the only one under Kannapolis City Schools’ umbrella.

According to the Kannapolis City Schools’ website, CTE works by:

• Preparing students for post-secondary education in career-technical fields and lifelong learning;

• Preparing students for initial and continued employment;

• Assisting students in making    educational and career decisions;

• Applying and reinforcing related learning from other disciplines;

• Assisting students in developing decision-making, communication, problem-solving, leadership and citizenship skills;

• Preparing students to make informed consumer decisions and apply practical life skills;

• Making appropriate provisions for students with special needs to succeed in career-technical education programs.

With the close proximity of the high school to the North Carolina Research Campus (NCRC) and North Carolina State University’s Plants for Human Health Institute (PHHI), there’s a great opportunity for partnership. A.L. Brown also has plans to build a school herb garden and greenhouse.

Brown Culinary Arts students take part in culinary competitions as well. One is sponsored by SkillsUSA. “Our purpose is to evaluate each contestant’s preparation for employment in the food and beverage industry,” its website says. “We also want to recognize outstanding students for their excellence and professionalism in food and beverage, and hospitality service.”

Kannapolis City Schools’ CTE cohort graduation rate nearly mirrors Cabarrus’, rising from 93 percent in 2014 to 98 percent in 2016.

“The program has been very successful and receives tremendous support from the academy advisory board and other business partners,” Parker says. “This year marks the 10th anniversary of our Culinary Arts program. 

“All students in the program are eligible to take the ServSafe Food Protection Managers Certification (passing of a high-quality food safety examination) while still in high school. Students in the Academy of Hospitality and Tourism are eligible to receive a NAFTrack certification (evaluates students on academic proficiency, project execution and internship performance) through the National Academy Foundation. These students will have completed the full Culinary Arts program of study and an internship.”

There is a need for community business partners that can provide internships for Culinary Arts students. This hands-on, real-world training is an important component to their CTE education. For more information, contact Rusty Parker in Concord at 704-262-6131 or Mallory Harris in Kannapolis at 704-932-6125.

Article by Kim Cassell

Photos courtesy: Kannapolis City Schools and the Cabarrus Arena & Events Center

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