The Dining Dish blog is Dara Bunjon's take on anything food, both national and in her hometown of Baltimore. Warning: this food blog can be harmful to your waistline.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Mentoring A High School Culinary Team

In the ancient days when I went to high school, there were few if any technical schools. In Baltimore, I think the only technical school was Mervo and I don't believe there was a culinary program. Regular high school home economics was always about creamed chipped beef --bleck! Even if there was a program at that time, I'm not sure culinary would have been a path I would have taken.

It is a new day and a new dawn with the ProStart culinary programs in the high schools. The students work in professional kitchens with professional equipment. I learned more about the program as a member of the board for the Maryland Hospitality and Education Foundation, more so when we used the Eastern Technical's culinary students to help test the recipes for my compilation cookbook, YUM! Tasty Recipes from Culinary Greats.

The Maryland State ProStart Competition takes place the beginning of March and I have sponsored The Carver Center Team and I am mentoring these young hopefuls. I'm not a parent nor a teacher, so this new territory for me.

At our first team gathering I brought in a cupboard full of my unusual ingredients and cookbooks. We tasted not just one of a product but multiples like vinegars side-by-side and the same with soy sauces. The students were eager and not shy to expand their culinary knowledge.

I have to keep in mind this is their competition not mine and allow them the room to make the final decisions - I just offer suggestions and that is hard. There is much more to this than just the dishes they have to make in the one hour - there is cost management, knife skills, health etc.

I reached out to a specialty importer for donations and they were there in a minute. I love Henckels knives which is unusual because I used to sell Wusthof. I was given a Henckels knife and just loved the weight and hand feel and it seems to stay sharper longer. Let me talk about Henckels' Santoku knife---it is a cook's dream. I've never been accused of being shy so I also contacted Henckels to help and they have.

I will try to write an ode to Henckels sometime in the future.

The team is doing it's second run through this afternoon after school. I'm excited to see what they have accomplished in the past week. I will keep you posted.

Here is some video that I took:

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