Under the stewardship of Chef Eric, a professional chef for over 20 years, with high-end culinary experience across the USA, the Culinary Program is a unique elective for students across all grade levels at Florida Prep. Students are taught to the standards of a professional kitchen, with tips and advice based upon Chef Eric’s 20 years of experience and through kitchen-classroom instruction much of which mirrors the content offered by our local community college.
Each block (one semester), enhances a student’s understanding of the culinary process. At the most basic level, all students that complete a semester will have a firm understanding of food hygiene, knife handling skills, basic cuisine and budgets.
As more blocks are undertaken and students become more confident and familiar with the professional kitchen at Florida Prep, they are encouraged to experiment with dishes and ingredients of their own choosing.
The Culinary Program is 95% ‘hands-on’, with cooking being the main objective. Students will learn the process, or the rule, by ‘doing’ and discussion, both of which we have found to be successful.
All students are constantly under the supervision and review of Chef Eric, and as they advance, they may also be invited to participate in food preparation for school-wide events such as the annual Senior Ring Ceremony.
Open to all grades, the Culinary Program offers the unique opportunity for our younger students to cook alongside their older peers. Much guidance is given and a big-brother, big-sister relationship can often be observed. In addition, discipline and proper kitchen behavior is stressed as being of paramount importance, and students learn early that the kitchen environment must be treated with respect.
Semester exams bring students together to test their skills in a ‘Culinary Challenge’, the most recent of which saw students presented with a whole chicken, 11 shell-on shrimp, various fruits and vegetables and a kitchen timer.
Teams were instructed to produce two main courses, with a vegetable side and a starch of choice ready for the table within 60 minutes. Team-work, knife skills, proper hygiene and communication all came to the forefront as each team presented their dish in the timescale set and discussed its merits with Chef Eric and visiting judges.
Students in the Culinary Program are not only developing a love of cooking, but also an understanding of good nutrition and how to budget! All, important life skills that many around them have yet to master.