Turnip with culinary

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Turnip with culinary

Tea Mcgilvray, Online Editor

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The Allen High School culinary program, taught by Deanna Donahue and Chef Annie Greenslade, is an interactive program which involves students learning the ins and outs of the food industry.

The program is comprised of 11 students who have completed the prerequisites and now run the restaurant, Blú. The restaurant is open to staff on Wednesdays and open to the public Thursdays and Fridays. Outside of the restaurant, there are many students on the same pathway of hospitality and restaurant management.

“I fell in love with teaching hospitality, and I wanted to come up to the high school,” Donahue said. “They’ve added a lot more requirements. Most of the classes when I first started teaching were semester-long courses, and now almost all of them are a year long. They’ve added a lot of specific information as the industry changes and continues to grow each year.”

Donahue notes that the food industry is unique in that individuals may have different techniques or recipes which change often, but the advisors of the culinary program welcome this change and encourage the students to bring in their own ideas.

“I am always open to their ideas and suggestions, and I ask them if we need to improve on anything, which helps me as an instructor, so I know when we need to step it up a little bit,” Donahue said.

The students are responsible for helping create the menu in addition to learning culinary skills.

We come up with new ideas, and Chef thinks of ways to incorporate them into either our normal menu or into a luncheon or banquet,” junior Peyton Kuester said.

According to Kuester, the students do the majority of the work. They plan the menu, cook the food, serve the customers and plan the banquets. Kuester said Greenslade emphasizes the importance of teamwork and cooperation.

“Our students are constantly interacting with others,” Donahue said. “They have to be a team to be successful; it’s not only our front of the house kids, but our back of the house kids, too. They all have to work together.”

Not only do culinary students get experience from the restaurant, they are also given opportunities from new restaurants in the area such as Snappy Salads, who recently visited students and gave them an opportunity to try food and apply for jobs at their restaurant. Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen also visited the program, and they donate a portion of their profits to the program. In addition to this, the students compete in an annual Taste of the Cowboys competition.

“Hopefully in the future we have Prostar or Skills USA that our students can compete in, but right now, we just do competitions as they come,” Donahue said.

One thing Greenslade, Donahue, Kuester all agree on is that quality is important. Customers often fill out surveys to help the students learn from their experiences.

“My favorite part is hearing that our customers really enjoyed their lunch or their experience,” Greenslade said.

Donahue says her favorite part about teaching is watching students grow in the program from their social skills to the kitchen.

“[The students] take pride; they’re like ‘wow I’ve really improved,’ so that puts a smile on my face,” Donahue said. “They know they have to provide this [effort] to get great feedback which challenges them to be better.”

The collaboration among the students, the advisors and the community is a recipe for culinary success, and as the program grows, so do the relationships within the program.

“My students work very hard for me, and I appreciate it,” Greenslade said. “They know what this program is about and what to expect out of it. They know that they get out of it what they put into it. I love my students, and they love me, so we work really well together.”

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