Cooking fever

J. Everett Light students get a taste for cooking at The Light Cafe.

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Cooking fever

Photo by B. Murdock

Photo by B. Murdock

Photo by B. Murdock

Photo by B. Murdock

Bella Murdock and Gracie Elmer

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While most students spend their weekdays from 7:35 am to 2:35 pm hitting the books, a small group of NHS students is out hitting the kitchen.

    Many class curriculums stay within the classroom, but NHS offers students places where they can apply their skills outside the typical academic setting, such as J. Everett Light Career Center (JEL). When he’s not inside the classroom, senior Eddie Cummins is sharpening his cooking talents in JEL’s culinary program.

   “It’s just a great place to be and to connect with new people,” Cummins said. “It’s a very fun experience, and you can learn a lot in the field that you want to go into.”

    JEL is a high school course where students participate in a variety of different business programs to pursue their interests and work toward their futures.

    This year, senior Sam Bennington is a first-year student in the JEL culinary program.

    “My friend’s dad told me that JEL was one of the best programs at the school. So I did some research on JEL and found out they did culinary, and I knew that I would love it,” Bennington said.

    In fact, JEL’s culinary program inspired Bennington, Cummins, and a group of students to start their own student-run restaurant at North Central High School.

  “[The Light Café] is open to the public and everyone is allowed except for [North Central High School students],” Bennington said. “It’s also a chance to learn more about this industry.”

    Along with providing students with new skills, as well as with the opportunity to gain experience in a kitchen, participating in JEL has also directed some of the future chefs’ goals towards entering into specific culinary careers.

    “I would like to say I would at least be a either pastry chef or just a normal head chef,” Cummins said.

    Working at the restaurant has ultimately allowed these students to learn and refine many different skills that they’ll be able to use in the future, and those abilities could possibly lead them to pursue a culinary career.

   “[The work] focuses on certain cooking skills, baking skills, and hosting skills, like waiting tables, serving food, and leading guests to their tables,” Bennington said.

    JEL culinary instructor Brad Nehrt enjoys mentoring his students to help them find the skills they need to be successful. He is the leader of the kitchen and assists the students at The Light Café.

    “[I love] teaching them skills and showing them what they can do with those,” Nehrt said. “That’s what I’d love to do all the time.”

    In his work at the restaurant, Bennington says he has gained several culinary techniques of his own as well.

    “I’ve learned about knife skills which are very important in a kitchen,” Bennington said. “I’ve also learned about time-temperature safety.”

    After a few years practicing these skills, students with more experience under their belts can start entering competitions. For example, one contest was sponsored by SkillsUSA, a career and technical student organization that serves students and professional members enrolled in training programs in trade, technical and skilled service occupations. One of these competitions is the Prostart contest, a team competition where groups are challenged to create a three course meal against the clock.

    “[It’s the] first year that we earned a spot in ProStart, so that was pretty killer,” Nehrt said. “I’ve had students in the past do really well in SkillsUSA competitions too.”

    With their talents, the JEL culinary students are sure to serve up some award-winning dishes in the future.

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