About 125 Matanzas High School students learn cooking and food-safety skills hands-on.
Something’s cooking at Matanzas High School.
About 125 students in four different levels of classes are in the MHS culinary arts flagship, said instructor Lisa Kittrell.
Whether her students want to just learn basic food storing and cooking temperatures for at-home fun, or they are aiming for a professional kitchen of their own, Kittrell loves seeing her students achieve their goals.
“It’s important to me because they’re learning a lifelong skill — something that they can use at home,” she said. “If they don’t go into the restaurant industry, at least they’ve learned what they need to know at home.”
After taking culinary one and two, students are given the opportunity to take the ServSafe Certification test. The certification is required by most restaurants as a basic credential for management staff.
Last year, about 70% of the students who took the test passed, Kittrell said.
“It makes me so excited,” she said. “When they pass ServSafe, I greet them out in the hallway with a big hug, and it just feels like such a success for me when that happens.”
Seniors Haley Smith and Alex Menendez both passed the cerification. For Menendez, it helped him get a job in the kitchen at Captain’s BBQ in Palm Coast. Smith was hired at Subway in part because of the certification, she said.
“I wanted to get certified with ServSafe so I could get a job somewhere like Captain’s,” Menendez said.
Though Menendez wants to pursue criminal justice after high school graduation, he is excited to keep cooking things like homemade queso and cookies for his family.
Smith said skills from this class help her most with her job at Subway. She’s planning to major in English at Flagler College, but food will always be an at-home passion of hers, especially creating Asian dishes.
In addition to bookwork and notes, the classes get a lot of opportunity for hands-on learning, as the students often cook for the teachers’ weekly lunches, baked goods that are on-sale during lunch, meals for athlete and arts banquets and more.
The money raised goes back to the students in the form of scholarships. Kittrell said she holds an end-of-the-semester contest where students must cook ingredients from a mystery basket for other teachers to judge and award.
Kittrell takes pride in seeing her students succeed. Two have gone on to the Culinary Institute of America, one is the general manager at Sonny’s BBQ, one is high up at Chick-fil-A, another at Ruth’s Chris Steak House.
“If you’re ever questioning whether or not you should take it, I think it’s a good idea,” Smith said about the flagship.