Student chefs: THS culinary arts class serves delectable dishes

By Riley Manning/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – For teachers and students, the months leading up to Thanksgiving break may be the most arduous, as they afford few, if any, breaks.
However, the students of Tupelo High School’s culinary arts class see a light at the end of the tunnel, and they recently prepared a meal to be enjoyed by their teachers in honor of the holidays.
Students worked in teams of three Thursday morning, Nov. 15, chopping onions, sautéing chicken and mixing sauces.
“They are preparing creamy chicken alfredo, seasoned green beans, yeast rolls and Oreo cookie pie,” said Faye Henson, who has taught the class since its installation in 2010.
In its first year, the class was held at the kitchen facilities in the Link Centre. Students were transported to the building by bus for the class, which lasted two class periods.
“It was originally a home economics class, but now it is a course on international cuisine,” Henson said. “They have cooked lasagna, jambalaya, fajitas, even soft pretzels.”
The next year, three classrooms at Tupelo High School were combined to accommodate a kitchen for the course. Thanks to a grant for the school, the students have quality equipment to work with, from stoves to refrigerators to utensils, creating the air of an authentic restaurant kitchen.
“It really shows them what a career in the culinary arts would be like, as well as cultivates a very practical skill,” Henson said.
The class lasts for two years and counts as an elective. Two credits are allowed for each year for a potential of four credits total.
“The first year students learn about safety and get on the same page with basics,” Henson said. “Some of them have cooked a little, but some don’t know how to boil water.”
Senior Faith Pannell, in her second year in the class, said she took the course because she thought it was interesting, but has learned more than she thought she would.
“My favorite thing we’ve cooked is sesame seed chicken,” she said. “I cook at home now sometimes, and it’s going to be a good thing to know how to do in the future.”
Pannell said the group has grown close over two years in the kitchen together. Learning each others’ strengths and weaknesses has helped them become a well-oiled machine.
Well, almost.
“Sometimes we have to try and salvage something we’ve messed up, but sometimes we have to dump it,” Pannell said. “It’s very important to follow the instructions in the recipe.”
She also hoped her teachers would enjoy their meal and remember it when making final marks on their report cards.
Aside from the meal, Henson said the class was working on making fresh bread. Last year, the class made French bread and sold the loaves with great success.
riley.manning@journalinc.com