Students in the Career and Technology track at Alice High School can sharpen their culinary skills in the classes offered on campus. This track is designed to teach students a valuable trade that they can use in their post high school careers. In the culinary class, students can specialize in culinary, service or baking and there are competitions available for all specialties.
The program, led by longtime Alice ISD teacher Barbara Ann Garcia, competes through an organization known as Skills USA. Garcia, who has a Bachelor’s degree in vocational home economics, leads her students through a variety of cooking instruction, along with other skills required to work in the food service industry.
Students begin in an introduction to culinary skills class and then advance to Garcia’s classes.
“If students continue on the culinary arts path, I can have them for three years,” said Garcia.
Garcia has five students competing in the commercial baking division. The competition will take place at AHS on February 15 and 16. During the baking competition, students must bake six sugar cookies, six blueberry muffins, a pineapple pie with a lattice top and they must frost and decorate an eight inch cake. All of these things must be baked according to the recipe provided by the competition. The students practice with these recipes for months before they are prepared for the judges. All of these baked goods must be prepared within the four hour time window provided.
In the culinary competition, Garcia has two entrants. During this particular competition, students must fabricate a chicken, perform certain knife cuts and then use these ingredients to prepare a braised chicken breast with mushroom gravy. Students also prepare glazed carrots, sautéed green beans and a Caesar salad. Their work is observed by judges and the winners are announced at an awards ceremony on the following day.
In conjunction with cooking and baking for competition, the culinary arts students also operate the Café 400. A nod to their location in the school. During her culinary classes, Garcia and her students prepare various dishes that are then sold to teachers and faculty. Sometimes the proceeds go to a charity, while other times, the money raised goes into an account to continue to fund the program and buy supplies. Café 400 also takes orders for special items and holds bake sales and other things that students can participate in as well.
“Café 400 is really something the students are heavily involved in. We hosted a one pot, 30 minute meal challenge and everyone really enjoyed that,” said Garcia.
AHS students have many career and technology options to choose from, but the culinary arts program is really cooking up great things.