Ivan Demier, left, Michael Castellanos, Nicole Konhaeuser and Jacob Lydamore peel potatoes for the infamous potato salad that is a favorite at the student-prepared salad bar available at Key West High School.

One Key West High School culinary student had his first experience cooking alongside chefs at the Hyatt Key West Resort and Spa last Tuesday.

“I started chopping cabbage and the chef realized I knew how to use a blade and let me cook. It was an experience I will never forget. I learned a lot about meeting expectations as a chef,” said William Rose, a junior and level 2 culinary student.

Culinary instructor Holly Bell has been teaching young chefs how to cook at KWHS’ vocational program for 13 years. Through her classes students get certifications from the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association and compete in a statewide competition. And a number of her previous pupils have gone on to work at places in town.

“This is such a perfect program for Key West because there are so many jobs in the restaurant industry,” Bell said.

She believes in incorporating real world experience into the culinary program so her students are ready for the reality of pleasing customers and working in a fast-paced environment. Part of their training is the student-prepared salad bar available at Key West High School to teachers.

Students will enter their dish of blackened bison strip with grilled pimento, balsamic vinaigrette, radicchio and portabella mushrooms in the Florida Pro-start Invitational — a statewide competition for culinary students.
Students will enter their dish of blackened bison strip with grilled pimento, balsamic vinaigrette, radicchio and portabella mushrooms in the Florida Pro-start Invitational — a statewide competition for culinary students.

“They learn how to sell food and the business marketing tactics through the salad bar,” Bell said, adding that proceeds help fund program costs and field trips. “Our most popular dish is the potato salad.”

Cooking is a large focus but the class also encompasses other aspects of the field. Food running, hospitality and management are other key components of the industry and the class.

“I want to get iPads in the class to teach the kids ‘ShopKeep POS’ which is a program used in smaller restaurants,” said Bell.

Some students take the class to become better cooks while others want to make a career out of it. Senior and four year culinary student, Jack Walker, has been in the program for four years and has a dream of becoming a high-end restaurant owner.

“I definitely am going to open up a dessert restaurant one day. I plan on going to Johnson and Wales [College of Culinary Arts] after I graduate high school,” said Walker.

Along with gaining experience in the food industry the students also gain notoriety in a statewide competition, the Florida Pro-start Invitational. The competition is March 5-6 in Orlando and the gourmet meal for the contest is already selected.

 

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