Students at Northeast High are learning to cook thanks to the ProStart course offered for the first time this year.
“I love to cook now,” said student Laurie Kight, 18. “I knew how to cook a little before this class, but now I love it. I like the sense of accomplishment.”
Operated and supported by the Louisiana Restaurant Association Education Foundation in partnership with the National Restaurant Association, ProStart is a two-year program for high school students that develops techniques and culinary and management skills.
“Students taking this class are learning a variety of kitchen and cooking essentials,” said Jimmy Le, a certified culinarian who teaches the class.
Level one of ProStart teaches students about equipment and technique; kitchen and workplace safety; food safety; understanding recipes; communication and management skills; serving guests; fruits and vegetables; and potatoes and grains.
In level two, students learn about cost control; nutrition; purchasing and inventory; marketing; breakfast foods and sandwiches; salads and garnishes; meat; poultry and seafood; desserts and baked goods; and global cuisines.
Le said if the students take both levels of ProStart, they can earn 12 hours of credit toward ServSafe, a food safety training and certification program recognized in federal, state and local jurisdictions.
“The idea is to get them ready to work in the food service and restaurant industries,” said Le, who was classically trained at Delgado Community College in the apprenticeship program and has worked under well-known chefs such as Lazone Randolph, of Brennan’s; Matt Murphy, of The Irish House; Dominique Macquet, formerly of Dominique’s on Magazine; and Susan Spicer, of Bayona and Mondo.
On Nov. 20, the students cooked a Thanksgiving meal for their classmates, including a fried turkey, ham, gumbo, cornbread dressing, macaroni and cheese, banana pudding and cheesecake.
“We made this gumbo today. I never could’ve made this before,” Lauren Kight, Laurie Kight’s twin, said while stirring the gumbo pot.
The students also have prepared meals for the football team on Fridays, have competed in a contest similar to the Food Network show “Chopped” and have learned dozens of recipes and dishes.
“I like cooking for other students here. I like to cook now. Period,” said Mikeisha Causey, 17.
The young cooks said they are enjoying the class as well as eating the foods they prepare.
“No more frozen foods for me,” Causey said. “Now, I can cook.”