The Gaucho Gazette


Culinary is an elective many people do not know much about, but this 15 year old class class provides a large array of experiences and skills for the students enrolled in it. The skills needed for cooking and operating a business are taught throughout the year.

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E-4 is not just a classroomthe room holds five kitchens and is the home of a business. Ms. Gutierrez, a culinary teacher of 15 years, teaches four sections of Intro Culinary, one section of Hospitality and Food Service, and advises the Catering Club.

Culinary encompasses so much, from the basics of cooking to the many jobs which are necessary to run a restaurant. Ms. Gutierrez successfully teaches her students all of these skillsfrom safety and sanitation, to global foods and holiday baking.

“We go through all the kitchen jobs from laundry to maintaining refrigerators to maintaining the equipment to keeping the sinks free of water and food, all of the kitchen jobs it takes so that we would pass a health inspection. We have five main kitchen jobs that need to be maintained regularly, and five kitchen groups. Each group gets assigned a job based on their location in the kitchenI have one group that’s always doing laundry, one group that’s always cleaning out the fridge, one group that’s always maintaining the equipment, making sure everything’s in the right spot, and one that cleans out the sinks at the end of a food lab,” said Gutierrez.

Culinary is not all work, of course. All of the kitchen jobs are important and necessary, but  the students also learn how to cook many unique foods through the wide range of techniques taught in their food labs.

“The first month of school is all about safety and sanitation, then we go into the kitchen jobs, then we go into proper measuring techniques and how to accurately measure, weigh products, how to follow directions, mise en place, how to organize before you start cooking, there’s a whole process. Then I go into the food units. We have a global foods unit, where they learn about foods from around the world, building flavor profiles, we do holiday baking, we have a Thanksgiving unit where we learn about the original Thanksgiving mean and how that meal has changed and how it’s stayed the same, then after the holidays we’ll do a soup, sauces, and stocks unit, so we’ll learn how to make a stock from scratch, different soups and sauces that they’re used in, we do appetizers on and off because it’s one of my favorites, they do some dough units, making some bread and pizza dough, we do pasta units, we do vegetable units, we do nutrition units,” said Gutierrez.

Students then take these skills into their community, as many school fundraising events are catered by the culinary classes. Gutierrez explains what her and her students do for the school and community.

“We cater on site, Lagunitas, we do a lot of the school fundraising events, not all of them, but the ones at Lagunitas or Casa Boosters fundraiser, project graduation fundraiser, the United Anglers fundraiser, so all of the big school fundraising dinners that happen off site, we help many of them,” said Gutierrez.

Organizing, funding, and putting on these events takes a lot of work — which is why Culinary is much more than a class — it’s more like a business.

“It’s a classroom model of a business. We take on different clients, most of them are on site and others are off site, so we have a customer and we have to figure out how to make a profit. So I teach the students how to figure out their costs, so it’s a classroom- business model, and we do have to make a profit, but we also have the safety net of being in the classroom,” said Gutierrez.

Because of the business aspects of culinary, students learn valuable skills such as managing money, calculating profit, and teamwork. These abilities are learned throughout the year after every event. Gutierrez has her students constantly using the skills they learn in class.

“The students who are really into it, the ones who really want to do this for a living, they get a really good hands-on experience, because I have them figure out the cost to produce their product, and then estimate how much we’ll sell, and then how much actually we did sell, and their part of the process is setting a good selling point, so that you are not too expensive but cover your costs and make a profit, so there are formulas that they apply, and after an event is said and done, they go and add up what they made and subtract that from their cost and they can figure out their profit margin. So that’s a great skill to have. It’s the most basic entrepreneurial formula that you need to succeed. We do this at least once a month, when we do our lunches they do that again once a month, and the other caterings that come up in between, they always have to figure out the cost and profit,” said Gutierrez.

Few of the students in culinary enter culinary seeking a catering career, including Junior Mason Patterson when he joined culinary three years ago.

“I always liked food. My mom cooked a lot when I was a kid and I was always really fascinated with the movement in the kitchen, the grabbing for the spices. She started to teach me to cook when I was in fourth grade. I remember the first time I made breakfast I made French toast better than my mom. She was not happy about that. That’s why I chose to do culinary in the first place” said Patterson.

Patterson has found, however, that he enjoys all parts of culinary, being one of the most involved students, and is considering pursuing a career in culinary. For now, Patterson’s skills are helping him in other classes.

“Because I am so invested in the hospitality portion of culinary, I am pretty good about doing speeches in classes and I’m pretty good about public speaking. Cultural nary has made me a better speaker. I try to stutter less and use a lot less filler words. Even if I don’t go into food hospitality, I will use the skills in any career. I figured even if I never work in a kitchen, I will at least us those social skills and service skills to better my performance,” said Patterson.

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