Washougal, WA — Stepping into the Washougal High School Excelsior Building on Friday, June 8 was like stepping into a high-end restaurant with delicious made-to-order brunch food stations as WHS Advanced Culinary students showed their skills preparing food and serving eager staff and students.
“The goal of this project was to have these students perform in a work situation under pressure,” said CTE Culinary teacher at WHS, Brenda Hitchins. “They all did very well, and it was a success!”
WHS Principal Aaron Hansen was a huge fan of the event and the food. “This practice is taking the students to a whole new level of experience and culinary delights!” he said between bites.
The project began with students creating a survey to discover what menu items WHS staff and student body would prefer. In addition, each station had a survey to collect diner feedback. According to Hitchins, students were also working to test some action stations to showcase on Thursday the 14th (omelets) and Friday the 15th (pasta).
“We were a bit challenged by the time constraint of the classes,” she said. “Students prepped the items the day before and had 25 minutes to set up the stations the day of. Because of the success of the event and all the mouths to feed, we went over the time, but the teachers excused them from their next class.”
“We are so proud of our students and the success of the program” says Margaret Rice, CTE Director for Washougal School District. “It is truly a team effort and if not for the support of all the WHS staff, we wouldn’t be able to pull it off.”
Senior Austin Jandreau seemed in his element as he efficiently took customers’ orders and prepared a stir fry dish with his station partner, Nate Beaver. “I have always loved cooking,” he admitted. “I have been cooking with my mom since I was seven.” And there appears to be no end in sight with Jandreau planning to attend Clark College and study Culinary Arts. The end goal is to someday have his own bar or bakery.
Jandreau enjoyed the live action of this experience and the positive feedback he was receiving from students he served. The duo had to think quickly when the meat component to their menu item ran out before the time was up. “We just changed our offer to a veggie stir fry and everyone was happy,” said Jandreau.
“The take way from the event was the students showed they had skills to handle pressure situations, practice all the skills they have learned this semester and walk away with a sense of pride that they gave back to the school community,” Hitchins said. “We are fortunate to have the funding from CTE and the students’ fees to support these events. Our next event is the Senior Tea in which the Baking and Pastry class will make all the food and students from all classes have an opportunity to volunteer to set up, serve and clean up.”
“With this type of real world practice these kids can go to any local restaurant and have pertinent experience to share on a resume and in an interview,” Hansen said.
Hansen then took a moment to look out at the tables filled with students at the Excelsior Building commons sampling the cuisine prepared by their peers.
“Just look at them! They are waiting patiently for their order, they are sitting at the tables engaged in conversation,” he said. “Phones are not out. The kids are enjoying each other as they eat. I think food does that.”