SC high school culinary teachers train how to make their students better chefs

Around 50 high school culinary teachers from across the state had one hour to prepare a three-course meal, during hands-on training at the Culinary Institute of the South.

The training was part of the National Restaurant Association’s ProStart program, a two-year culinary arts and restaurant management program for high school students that can end with students receiving their certifications in food handling or restaurant management.

The training, offered Sept. 24 at Technical College of the Lowcountry’s culinary institute, was a cooking session meant to prepare the teachers to practice the competitions with their students.

Reminiscent of a segment on the Food Network, teachers had an hour to prepare a meal and were lead by Chef Francine Marz, the recently hired dean at CIS.

“It was really like teaching a normal class, they’re just a little bit more seasoned,” said Marz

The theme was southwestern food. Carne asada tacos, lowcountry pork wellington, tortilla chips with guacamole and roasted salsa verde and New Mexico state cookie, Biscochitos, were some of the dishes prepared during the one hour session.

High school culinary teachers working to prepare the three-coure meal
High school culinary teachers working to prepare the three-coure meal

ProStart holds two yearly competitions. One is an Iron Chef-style competition that’s focused on the Culinary Arts, where students have an hour to make three courses while only being allowed to use an eight-foot table and two small camp-stove burners with no running water or electricity.

“They can still create a very complex meal, without using those things,” said Douglas Flaherty, chief operating officer for the South Carolina Restaurant Lodging Association. “The meals that they prepare are fine dining, five-star meals that many chefs can’t cook in three hours, let alone one hour.”

The other competition is a Shark Tank-style competition where restaurant management students present their restaurant concepts, and how they would operate them, to judges. Students can win scholarships at the competitions as well as entry into other national competitions.

The ProStart curriculum is taught in numerous high school culinary classes across the state.

Marz has found that students who come to CIS with previous experience in ProStart classes or training from vocational-technical schools typically have a leg up in her classes.

“I would put some of these kids next to some of my best sous chefs, or even lead my cooks, ‘‘ said Marz. “I mean, they’ve done some amazing work and remember, they’re high school students.”

Gorthy (middle) taught both Gordon (right) and Jackson (left) at Aiken High School.
Gorthy (middle) taught both Gordon (right) and Jackson (left) at Aiken High School.

Jean Gorthy is the culinary teacher at Aiken High School, in Aiken, S.C., and has been teaching there for over 30 years. Gorthy began teaching the ProStart curriculum during the 2002-2003 school year, which she says made a difference in her class.

“I have been here from the beginning of this process of ProStart in South Carolina and it’s kept me where I’m at, you know, kept me wanting to continue teaching,” said Gorthy.

Gorthy found that with the ProStart curriculum, students took her class more seriously.

“It gives the students a lot of credibility with all the certifications they can earn and the students want to earn those certifications,” said Gorthy.

Two of Gorthy’s former students were present at the training. One was Molly Gordon, who’s now the culinary arts teacher for Wando High School in Mount Pleasant, SC. The other was Tayler Jackson, a current student at the Culinary Institute of the South who, along with other students, came to help the teachers in the kitchen.

Gorthy was very proud, not only to see the success of her former students, but to have the chance to cook alongside them as well.