Carpinteria Education Foundation Helps Students Achieve Success with Professional Teaching Kitchen

By all accounts, Carpinteria High School is a typical school, with excellent academic classes, a variety of sports teams, and students who come to school everyday ready to learn. Now, CHS has remodeled a preexisting home economics space into a professional teaching and community kitchen and will launch a career training component to support students pursuing careers in the culinary arts.

The new professional teaching kitchen features commercial-grade, industry-standard appliances and tools.

With a new teaching station and five student group workstations all featuring commercial-grade, industry-standard appliances and tools, the professional teaching kitchen is able to support students in the career path program. Students will be able to receive college credit through the school’s Culinary Arts Academy, taking classes including advanced foods and baking, with the opportunity to also work toward a ServSafe food-handlers certificate. “With the new kitchen, we will have the capability to teach students what the culinary arts are all about. They will be able to take the skills they learn here and use them in other aspects of their lives – living healthy lifestyles and providing for their families,” said Mary Keane-Gruner, the school’s culinary teacher. Further local involvement will be seen from the culinary community, as local chefs and culinary teachers will be invited to teach guest classes.

Kassandra Ni and Nicole Madden work on getting the kitchen ready for culinary classes.

Every semester, five periods are available for culinary arts classes, capable of holding 30 students. This means that a total of 150 students can learn culinary arts per semester, with as many as 300 students benefitting over the course of the year. In a school with an average of 750 students, this is an amazing opportunity for many students to get a leg up in the world of academics as well as the competitive job market. “The Culinary Arts program at Carpinteria High was what primarily led me to my career choice of becoming a pastry chef,” said Torrey, a former CHS student. “Under the instruction of both Mrs. Ranger and Mrs. Gruner, I was able to develop a stronger talent and passion for both cooking and baking. I was also able to intern in the cafeteria for my last semester of high school, which helped me prepare for my classes at SBCC. I am excited that CHS has a new, state-of-the-art kitchen for teaching. It will bring more opportunities to the students and new possibilities for the entire community. I am looking forward to touring the new kitchen and maybe one day I might even teach there!”

Mary Keane-Gruner, Kassandra Ni, and Nicole Madden move kitchen appliances back into the new professional teaching kitchen. Students will begin taking classes in the new kitchen starting this month.

Students are not the only ones benefiting from this community investment. After hours, the kitchen will be open to broad community participation in a variety of capacities. In collaboration with Carpinteria Children’s Project at Main, the school will host a pilot program beginning in April to teach families about healthy eating habits. The first group will include families with kindergarten children ranking the highest on the Body Mass Index, but eventually, this program will be accessible to everyone in the community. In addition to nutrition classes, CHS will offer an independent adult education cooking program as well as provide trainings for local food service workers.

The idea for the professional teaching kitchen was first conceived in 2006. Paul Cordeiro, superintendent of the Carpinteria Unified School District, envisioned career path programs so that students could get the skills they needed to get jobs after high school. The school received some early funds and the Carpinteria Education Foundation helped to raise money through the community. CHS was also fortunate to receive a grant from the California Department of Education and a $50,000 Strategy Grant from the Santa Barbara Foundation. In addition, the Orfalea Foundation was an early supporter, having partnered with the school on an organic garden, which now supplies food to the school cafeteria as part of the School Food School Gardens program in support of a healthful nutrition policy and scratch cook menu.

Through the professional teaching kitchen, CHS is providing a resource that is engaging students in potential career opportunities and allowing community members to be active participants in achieving healthful lifestyles. “Students are learning how to cook, which is a great way for them to become more independent. Kids today are really dependent on fast food, so it is necessary for them to learn how to make healthful meals from scratch,” said Marianne McCarthy, kitchen coordinator for the Carpinteria professional teaching kitchen. “Now, kids work together in the classroom, no matter what their academic level, toward the common goal of making a successful dish. Through this teamwork, they achieve confidence, while also developing skills they will use for the rest of their lives.”

Click here to find out more about the professional teaching kitchen or to make a donation.
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