Teaches more than just cooking
Students in culinary classes at the Greater Fort Erie Secondary School say they’re working hard at building skills that will make them employable after they graduate.
In the culinary program, students learn the skills most would expect, including safe food temperatures, basic recipes and nutrition.
“We’ve made quite a bit of bread, learning some techniques for actually baking the bread, cookies too, and learned some life skills with baking,” explained Grade 10 culinary student Braedon Shaw.
For younger students, the program also offers a chance to explore a possible career field that they may not have otherwise considered.
“I don't totally know what I want to do yet just because I'm in Grade 10. But I would definitely consider going into some type of culinary school,” explained Harper James. “I think learning a lot of these techniques would probably help me for all types of jobs, even if it was just fast food or any type of restaurant.”
For others, the life skills they’re learning while in the kitchen are things they’ll be able to use regardless of their future career fields.
“I love being able to teach other people after I've gotten good at one thing, but I love that other people get the chance to teach me too, because I think that's beneficial kind of for everyone all around,” said Melanie Nolan, a Grade 12 culinary student who helps teach others in the program.
Afshin Keyvani, a hospitality teacher at Greater Fort Erie Secondary School, says he has had many students who have gone through the program be very successful throughout the Niagara Region in many career fields.
Students who chose to participate in the culinary program can choose to take it as a special high skills major in addition to their normal classwork.
This allows them to graduate prepared with skills and certifications to enter the culinary workforce as soon as they want.
“I have a number of my students who are teachers doing the culinary program. One of my first graduates, she’s a teacher at the school in Niagara Falls and a few of my students are chefs in Niagara-on-the-Lake, at Queen’s Landing, as a sous chef working in the casinos,” he explained.
However, his goal in the classroom and kitchen is not to create great chefs, it is to prepare students to enter any workforce with basic life skills to help them succeed.
“My pride — I get most excitement about it — is when I see the students are using those transferable skills in other trades,” Keyvani explained.
He often uses “more knowledgeable other” teaching in his classroom, which allows students who have already mastered a skill to take the lead on teaching others, rather than always learning from an adult.
This helps students like Nolan, who struggled with talking in front of crowds when she began taking culinary classes in Grade 10.
Now, she’s teaching classmates preparing to enter a competition where she will give a 20-minute presentation to adults, teaching them how to make five and six strand braided bread, something she never would have considered before.
“I'm just taking the course to learn more like time management and how to be more confident in your speech when you're talking with others. So that can help with basically any job in the outside world,” added Nolan who plans on going into psychiatry after she graduates.
All the students say they hope others will consider participating in culinary classes and other programs offered in high school to help them enter the workforce in a few short years.
STORY BEHIND THE STORY:
The hospitality program at Fort Erie Greater Secondary School has a reputation for giving students the skills they need to be successful as professionals in the kitchen after graduation. Reporter Brilee Sears wanted to learn more about the program and what the students learn that helps them excel in the workforce after graduation.