The spicy aroma of bacon and mushroom quiche and braided raisin bread wafted down the halls Monday at Fox Meadow Middle School. “That smells good,” more than one person in the office exclaimed.
In the cafeteria, the chefs were standing proudly at attention behind a buffet table laden with their handiwork. Diners spooned up heaping plates of French toast, casseroles, ham, yogurt, fruit and so many sweet breads it looked like a holiday bake sale.
The young chefs, among 18 at the school who belong to an early morning cooking club, had invited administrators and school board members to their Chefs of the Future breakfast. Leilani Sloan, 12, greeted visitors at the cafeteria door. “Enjoy your meal,” she said in her most formal voice, handing out menus to the two dozen guests.
“Food is a different way of spreading art,” said Leilani, who’s in her second year in the club.
The kids got to school at 6:30 a.m. to prepare for the 8 a.m. event. They had baked and frozen the muffins and breads several days ahead so the morning wouldn’t be so hectic.
Weldon Mott, who was in the kitchen wearing the requisite hair net, explained that he helped make the banana muffins. He sometimes watches cooking shows on TV, but said, “My favorite cook is Miss Jane.
Miss Jane is Jane Pickard, the school’s kitchen manager, who started the club. “I was undergoing cancer treatment six years ago and they told me I had six months to live. I thought, what do I want to do? I wanted to mentor kids. It gave me something to look forward to, and here I am still, and here they are,” she said.
She laid down some rules for the youthful chefs. “There’s only one boss in the kitchen and it’s me. And I tell them no running except their imagination.”
Harrison School District 2 board member Richard Price was a member of the day’s clean plate club.
“The food is delicious and has good flavors, and that comes from an expert eater,” he said. “I’m so proud of them. They are so professional.”
New superintendent Andre Spencer made short work of potatoes, quiche, fruit and muffins. Diplomatically, he didn’t choose a favorite dish. “I like it all.” He noted that the students were not only learning good nutrition, but leadership and cooperation, qualities that will serve them well not only in school, but when they graduate.
The students learned to create dishes along with studying nutrition. They will take a field trip to Pikes Peak Community College, which has a culinary program, and will tour a fancy restaurant to watch banquet preparations.
Principal John Rogerson said that 400 of the school’s 530 students participate in 18 extracurricular programs. There’s an after-school music program, and clubs devoted to subjects such as video production, rocket making, robotics, hiking, and even one that revolves around social etiquette.
“It exposes them to career and college opportunities and to the wider community at large, which they might not have known about otherwise,” Rogerson said.
The school is in the third year of a five-year federal 21st Century Learning Center grant that provides money for academic interventions and enrichments.
Richie Tran, 13, said he cooked lasagna and spaghetti at home after getting tips in the club. “My parents are from Vietnam so there’s a lot of food we don’t usually eat. But they loved it.”
After the guests left Monday, the chefs sat down to enjoy their cooking.
Brayan Motesdeco, 12, had a heaping plate of everything. “I helped cook it, so it tastes good,” he said. He joined the club because his late great-grandmother had cooked a lot and left behind recipes that he wants to try.
“I want to open a restaurant in Paris.”
Contact Carol McGraw: 636-0371 Twitter @mcgrawatgazette
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