ROP Culinary Arts class’ final project passes taste test.
Running a restaurant is serious business. Every aspect requires attention, from the front door to the back of the pantry. But for students in the Hart District’s Regional Occupational Program (ROP) Intro to Culinary Arts class, it’s just another final exam. The more than 50 young foodies turned the West Ranch High School cafeteria into a gourmet buffet last Thursday, showing off their skills for friends, family, and Chef Instructor Louis Eguaras.
After planning and preparing for 6 weeks, the time finally came for the students to dish out their new-found expertise for more than 100 eager diners. Student Executive Chef Justin Silva and Student Sous Chef Vince Cenvantes planned the menu and recipes. The gourmet flavors ranged from all over the world, from Korean barbeque with kimchee to Philly cheesesteak sliders. They even prepared a dessert of red velvet cupcakes, which disappeared quickly.
Two days a week, all semester long, these greenhorn gourmets gathered in the kitchen to learn and practice skills including the basics of nutrition, sanitation, and safety.
In addition to the basic knife cuts and other skills required for gourmet cooking, the students also learn a new language. The standard kitchen commands and alerts allow for fast and effective communication between chefs and help keep the kitchen safe. Passing the class earns students a certificate listing their proficiencies, a resume of sorts for getting into the advanced class or entering the food industry.
Cenvantes, who plans to continue his studies at Le Cordon Bleu after graduation next year, says the class has taught him both the rules of cooking, and also how and when to break them. Students are encouraged to bring their own perspective and interpretation to each dish. Cenvantes says he’s glad to have completed the final project, but will miss being in the kitchen.
“For the next few weeks I’ve got nothing to do on Tuesdays on Thursdays,” said Cenvantes. “All I can do is wait until the advanced class starts.”
Eguaras says he has several students moving on to the advanced ROP course, and even a few who are on their way ultimately to Le Cordon Bleu or other professional schools.
“What I try to do is push them a little bit more. So when they’re in the kitchen, I try to give them more responsibility, more things to do,” said Eguaras. “At the end I can see improvement, I see some speed. As soon as they get in the kitchen they know what to do… By the time they go to Le Cordon Bleu, they’re very successful. They’re like fish in water.”
Eguaras is an instructor of Le Cordon Bleu Program at the California School of Culinary Arts in Pasadena, and has cooked at Camp David and the White House.