January 17, 2019 by HCDE-Texas
Fortis Academy Culinary Arts Teacher Ouindetta Thomas could not help but smile with excitement as her kitchen was fully operational the first week of the spring semester.
Let’s get cooking,” she said, in anticipation of the first lesson.
Fortis Academy is the county’s first public recovery high school. This school will help students who have completed a substance abuse or dependency rehabilitation program continue their high school education in a sober environment.
Five students were presented with their jackets, aprons and hats as they passed the ServSafe Food Protection Manager Certification Examination, which is accredited by the American National Standards Institute-Conference for Food Protection.
“This certification makes them eligible to get a manager position at a restaurant after they graduate from high school,” Thomas said.
Students also benefit from internships with Gordon Foods and local restaurants.
At the beginning of the year, students prepared for the certification exam by learning basic techniques, such as proper food handling and how to handle kitchen equipment, when working in a restaurant. Students must pass the exam in order to cook in the class.
“My main goal for when I teach a culinary class is to have the students by month two to be dressed and be ready to work on their own, and usually they are,” she said.
Seventeen-year-old Roberta Vasquez chose to participate in the culinary program because it was something new and fun.
“I enjoy making caldo with my grandma,” she said.
Vasquez hopes to learn new dishes to make, especially ones that are difficult to prepare and perfect.
“I’ve always wanted to work at a fancy restaurant and look forward to in the future,” she said.
For 18-year-old Isaac Hinojosa, he said his interest in participating in the program is the certification being offered that are available outside of school.
“I like to cook, especially spaghetti, and have experience working in the food industry at various fast-food restaurants,” he said.
His goal by taking this class is to be able to cook independently.
“I would like to be able to cook independently because sometimes I need help and want to learn how I can successfully do it myself,” Hinojosa said.
Students prepared po-boys and paninis during the first week. Pastries such as cake baking, decorating and fruit-dipping are also on the to-do list and would be just in time for Valentine’s Day.
“They will learn everything you would learn in a basic culinary arts class and food preparation techniques; it’s more about skill than dishes,” Thomas said.