Catering to students’ needs
Most high-schoolers are capable of throwing together a grilled cheese sandwich or scrambling a few eggs, but students in Jocelyn Walsh’s culinary classes at West Seneca West Senior High School are creating far more difficult and delicious dishes.
Walsh teaches three food courses that are open to students in their sophomore year and above.
The first class, food nutrition, teaches students the basics, including knife skills, measuring, safety, sanitation and working with simple foods.
The second class in the progression, advanced foods, takes the students for a huge leap.
“It’s far faster-paced, and there is dramatically more cooking,” said Walsh, noting that the students do everything from creating their own stock to cooking seafood to decorating cakes. Walsh said that during this class, it is easy to see the students progress to new levels of self-sufficiency.
“They will make something and try it. If they don’t like it, they know what kinds of spices to add,” said Walsh. “That, to me, is really cool.”
The third class, international and regional foods, is run a little differently. It is more project based and teaches students many skills that can be used inside and outside the classroom.
“You learn a lot of leadership skills,” said Amory Maracle, an alumnus of Walsh’s classes. “Sometimes in the groups you have to have a firm hand.”
“The kids learn how to guide others without being bossy,” said Walsh.
Skills that will carry over into everyday life are a big part of what attracted Dominique Case to Walsh’s classes.
The junior hopes to find a career in the medical field someday but says the culinary classes she has taken will help her in a variety of ways, no matter what her career path.
For sophomore Andrew Filipski, each and every culinary skill he picks up in class is key, as he plans on going into the industry eventually.
“I’ve always liked food and cooking since I was a kid, which has made turning this into a passion really easy,” Filipski said.
The young chef is getting some important real world experience through his high school as well.
Students from Walsh’s classes have begun catering to a variety of groups within the school.
While they are unable to cater events for groups outside the school, the team’s schedule has been fairly full throughout the school year, whipping up a variety of meals and desserts for sports teams, alumni events and other organizations within the school.
According to Walsh, many times the group that hires the students to cater a banquet or event gives them a basic idea of what they would like served, and then they are able to come up with their own ideas.
In some cases, such as for a recent wrestling banquet, the team requested barbecue-style food.
No matter what variety of victuals, Walsh said she tries to have students cook dishes that will continue to challenge them.
The students volunteer their time and say that drawbacks are few. The crew caters school dances, and all agreed that sometimes it’s tough to do work when friends are out on the dance floor.
“You miss out a little, but we take shifts and it’s the commitment you make,” said Filipski.
Although the students cater on a volunteer basis, they still reap certain benefits from their work. Profits from the events come straight back to their classroom.
According to Walsh, the small business has allowed the class to purchase new mixing machines, as well as an industrial refrigerator, and to prepare dishes that they wouldn’t be able to afford on the budget provided by the school.
The catering services have also benefited other West Seneca West students.
In the past, some banquets have been out of some students’ price range, but with fellow students doing the catering, the costs are kept low, allowing more students to attend more events.
According to Case, however, there is one overriding reason to participate in the classes and the catering of events: “It’s just a lot of fun.”