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Clinton Township, Macomb County

June 21, 2013

Local students get a taste of culinary arts

By Maria Allard
C & G Staff Writer

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Local students get a taste of culinary arts

CLINTON TOWNSHIP  — One question chef Scott O’Farrell often hears when teaching the high school summer career academy culinary arts program is, “How do I get a good job?”

O’Farrell knows the answer.

“Not only do you have to be a good cook, but a very good people-person and a very good businessman,” O’Farrell said. “It takes years to get all the knowledge and experience needed.”

He also advises the budding chefs to “be on time and work hard all day.”

About 20 local high school students from throughout Macomb County did just that when they participated in a culinary arts class June 17-21 at the Center Campus of Macomb Community College.

The course, aimed at teenagers, offered a number of hands-on experiences, from cooking savory meals to baking sweet treats. This year’s class included students from Regina, Eisenhower, Henry Ford, Stevenson, Utica and East Detroit high schools.

Some of this year’s culinary arts students already have part-time jobs in the food industry, while others enrolled in the program to see if they have an interest in the field.

On the second day of class, the students — in aprons, chef hats and even a few hairnets — spent the morning preparing chicken Parmesan, grilled zucchini, rice pilaf and Caesar salad. One day prior, a Southwestern grilled chicken dish was on the menu. The cooks worked in teams.

“We have a brief meeting at the beginning of class,” said O’Farrell, who teaches year-round as a faculty member at MCC. “I rotate them through the different areas. Everyone gets a turn at a variety of things.”

The instructor also tried to introduce the students to different cultures through food.

“Food is the one undeniable link everybody has in common,” O’Farrell said. “When you look at the different preparations and different spices, that’s when it becomes interesting.”

Along with food preparation, the students received a better understanding of staying safe and sanitary inside a kitchen. Using the proper utensils when fixing a meal also was part of the curriculum. As a chef, you wash your hands a lot.

“They’re doing a really good job. They do have a lot of pride in what they do,” O’Farrell said. “They want to make it the best. These kids are giving up their summer vacation to learn how to cook for a week.”

Working with the students along with O’Farrell was part-time MCC instructor Pat Dinco. Once the meals were done, the instructors and students sat down to what O’Farrell called a “family meal.”

Utica High School student Duncan Underwood, 16, enrolled in the summer academy for one simple reason: he enjoys cooking.

“I just want to be a chef as a career,” said Underwood, who will be a junior this fall. “I thought this would be a good start.”

Wolfe Middle School student Nick Booza liked the hands-on aspect of the summer academy.

“You’re not stuck in a classroom reading a book all day,” said the 13-year-old who will be a freshman at Center Line High School this fall. “The hats are my favorite part, and taking food home.”

Class of 2013 East Detroit High School graduates Glenn Webb and Montel Lewis, both 17, decided to check out what the program offered.

“My favorite part is figuring out what people made,” Webb said.

“I’ve always wanted to learn to cook,” Lewis said. Shrimp Alfredo is one of those dishes he really wanted to make. Webb and Lewis made a cheesecake they couldn’t wait to sink their teeth into.

O’Farrell said he has always worked for the best people as a chef.

“I take quality and experience over money,” he said. Sometimes, he would even work for free on his days off, “So I could work more and learn more.”

Every summer, MCC college officials offer weeklong academies in various fields to local high school students for them to explore possible professions. Law enforcement, robotics and biotechnology were among the other summer academies offered this summer.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Maria Allard at allard@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1045.