Jeffers students learn kitchen life: New class mixes culinary skills, home economics

Kali Katerberg/Daily Mining Gazette Emily Johnson demonstrates how to create a sauce sachet, used to flavor stock as students watch.

PAINESDALE — Jeffers High School students began cooking in their brand new kitchen this week in the school’s first semester of culinary classes.

“Starting from scratch is really cool because we can create this program exactly how we want it to be and then we have the freedom to alter it as we’ll go. If we don’t like how it went this semester then we’ll change it up for next semester,” said class teacher Emily Johnson. “We aren’t set in stone with how it’s supposed to look, which I like. (There’s) a lot of room for creativity.”

Johnson was able to shape the class around what the 15 students wanted to learn. This class wasn’t interested in a culinary career necessarily but wanted to learn about the industry and develop their own skills. The result was a fusion of professional culinary and home economics touching on a wide range of topics.

“A lot of basic cooking skills, how to use a knife is what we’re learning right now. How to make everything from soups, how to cook meat, how to bake, how to make cakes. Everything really,” Johnson said.

Other topics include reading recipes, organic foods, nutrition, budgeting for a family and the culinary industry.

“We did a field trip to Walmart where they had so much money they had to spend for their four-person family in our scenario to see what they could come up with,” Johnson said.

Guest speakers are another area where Johnson sees an opportunity to tap into other local talent.

At the moment, the food will be prepared for the class itself, learning with small batches. Though that may change as the program becomes more established.

“It’s such a awesome life skill and I’m so excited to be doing that,” said Johnson. “That’s where my passion comes in teaching people to cook healthily for their bodies, for the people around them and getting excited about it.”

“It’s an amazing opportunity for our kids in such a small school to be supported by the board of education, our foundation and the community that donated and they have taken an active role and now they have this wonderful facility to not pursue a career but pursue a skill,” said school superintendent Tim Keteri. “I think that is just phenomenal.”

Following their Wednesday meeting, school board members toured the completed facility.

“I graduated from Jeffers 19 years ago, and it’s pretty amazing to watch the school district evolve into what it is now…I would have loved to have the opportunities that they offer now, it’s really exciting to see,” said board treasurer Justin Marier.