Sep. 28—FULTON — The Culinary Arts Program at the Itawamba Career and Technical Center is now in its second year, but with one big change from last year.
Students now have a commercial kitchen to work in.
"Last year, we worked with a toaster oven, air fryer, microwave, doughnut maker, griddle and a fryer," said Kerri Brown, the culinary arts instructor.
This year, the kitchen is equipped with a commercial refrigerator and freezer, gas oven, electric oven, combi-oven, gas griddle, gas grill, deep fryer, dishwashing sinks and an ice maker.
In fact, the commercial kitchen is one reason some Culinary Arts I students decided to take the second year of the program, Culinary Arts II.
"I really enjoyed the class last year, and even though we didn't have a kitchen, we did have little things to work with," said Isabella Mayben, a sophomore at Mantachie High School who is one of the youngest students in the program.
"I knew we were going to have a real kitchen this year, and more opportunities to be in it," the 15-year-old said.
"We didn't have a kitchen last year and I wanted the experience of being in the kitchen to learn more," said Dasia Dabbs, a senior at Itawamba Agricultural High School. "I knew a little bit about cooking before this class, but now I'm more comfortable in the kitchen."
The Culinary Arts Program is an elective class and available to freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors at IAHS, Mantachie High School and Tremont High School.
In the first year of the program, Brown said, students learn how to keep food safe, prepare minimal recipes, read a recipe, price out a menu, and knife skills.
In the second year of the program, students learn meal preparation, culinary math, how to prepare more complicated recipes, and how to develop a menu based on budget, nutritional value, portion size and dietary restrictions.
"At the end of two years in the program, students get a ServSafe Certificate, which opens up a world of opportunities at restaurants for them," Brown said.
Brown and her husband, James Moore, moved to Fulton from Columbus, Georgia, for his job with JESCO. She worked as food services manager at IAHS for two years, before moving to the Culinary Arts Program at ICTC in the fall of 2021.
"I just love these kids," Brown said. "They're like my children, honest to goodness."
Culinary Arts I students spend four days a week in the classroom and one day in the kitchen. Second-year students spend three days in the classroom and two days in the kitchen.
On Friday, Culinary Arts II students were busy in the kitchen preparing two recipes — one for garlic cheese biscuits, and one for cilantro and lime rice.
The eight students — one was out on a field trip — were divided into teams, and each team was responsible for reading the recipes, preparing the recipes and then tasting the finished dishes.
"We sit down after the food is done and taste each other's dishes and talk about whose was best," Brown said. "They're real good about complimenting each other."
Right now, Brown comes up with the recipes the students use in class, but at a later point, they'll start coming up with their own.
"We're going to host cupcake wars in the fall using their recipes," she said. "We'll divide into teams and bring in judges. At Christmas, we'll do a gingerbread house competition. And in February, we'll have a sweets shop for Valentine's. They'll make things to sell, and all the proceeds will go back into this program."
Jessie Brown, a senior at IAHS, could have graduated early last year, but stuck around so he could take the second-year class.
"I had a perspective change last year of where I wanted to be in my life," the 18-year-old said. "We had a ton of fun last year, even though we didn't have a full kitchen. I stayed because I like to learn a lot of new things."
CHEDDAR GARLIC BISCUITS
2 cups baking mix, such as Bisquick
3/4 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, divided
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons salted butter
In a bowl, combine baking mix, milk, 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder and cheese. Mix until well combined.
Spray a baking sheet with non-stick spray or line with parchment paper. Scoop the dough onto the baking sheet, using a small ice cream scoop (it should be enough for 9 or 10 biscuits).
Bake at 450 degrees for 10 minutes or until golden brown.
Melt the butter and add the remaining 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder to it. Brush the garlic butter over the warm biscuits. Best if served immediately.
CILANTRO LIME RICE
1 cup basmati rice
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 tablespoon butter
Zest of 1 lime
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 cup finely chopped cilantro leaves
Salt and pepper
Place rice in a fine mesh strainer and rinse it several times.
In a saucepan, bring stock to a boil. Add rice. Cook uncovered until the water level drops below the surface of the rice. Reduce heat to low, cover the pan with a lid and simmer until done, about 12 minutes.
Remove pan from heat, and let the rice rest for 5 to 10 minutes. Remove the lid and add the butter, lime zest, lime juice and cilantro. Gently fluff rice mixture with a fork or spatula. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serves 4.