Temple High culinary students cater district, local events

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Temple High School culinary students have surpassed learning how to cook. Instead, they have made a name for themselves catering events for the district and around town.

“Our food is very good,” Margaret Fyffe, culinary arts teacher, said. “What our food has that others don’t have is that everything is made from scratch.”

On Tuesday morning, Fyffe’s third period Practicum of Culinary class looked less like a learning environment and more like a successful restaurant business as they prepared a three-course meal for 22 guests from Leadership Temple.

“These students love to cook and they love to compete,” Fyffe said. “It is a lot of work, but a lot of fun, too.”

Junior Marbella Lopez said it is more than a class to her, but a chance to decompress all while she sharpens her culinary skills.

“When I cook, time just stops,” Lopez said. “I want to open a café one day and serve appetizers and desserts.”

An hour before their lunch guests arrived, Lopez and a dozen other students took their place at different stations in the kitchen.

On the menu was a mixed green salad with feta cheese and cranberries to start, shepherd’s pie for the entrée and miniature lemon Bundt cakes for dessert. They were in constant communication with one another and seemed to know their way around the kitchen with very little supervision from their teacher.

“I need more mashed potatoes!” Fyffe said as she helped cover the meat and vegetable filling in the pies.

Without even thinking twice about it, senior Quintin Anderson grabbed eggs, whipping cream and sour cream and began to work on another bowl of potatoes. Students also seasoned their food with fresh herbs from their kitchen garden.

Students stayed focused and on schedule with their individual recipes and tasks.

“Seven minutes left!” Fyffe called out as students worked down to the wire placing their final touches on each dish and making sure the presentation was as good as their food.

“Perfect! Look at that! Good job!” She told the students as she walked by the mini Bundt cakes covered in a homemade lemon glaze and topped with a raspberry.

“Bon Appétit” was written across the dining room wall and complimented the students’ hard work. Fyffe reminded her students of proper techniques while they hustled to get all the dishes on the rolling carts.

“Remember this is what they look at during competition,” she said.

The students’ experience went beyond the kitchen as they were dressed to serve and properly set the table.

Fyffe said her classes cater two to three events a month and twice a month for teachers at the school’s Wildcat Café.

Their biggest event is when they cater for the Central Texas Orchestral Society, making multiple desserts and entrees for 400 people.

“We just got a request from Troy saying that they had tasted our food and our pies because we have a big pie fundraiser, and they want us to cater an event for them.” Fyffe said.

The money they raise goes into their activity fund and is used for competition, equipment and travel.

“I also like to award their hard work with a trip at the end of the year. Hard work pays off,” she said.

Senior Sierra Fillmore said Fyffe has been like a second mother to her.

“I just love her,” she said. “She has been my teacher for the past six years. I had her for home economics at Travis Middle and now for the past three years here.”

Fyffe said she brings in chefs from different culinary schools to give the students options about potentially pursuing a career in the field.

Fillmore said that after she graduates she will attend Central Texas College where she plans to get a certificate of culinary arts. Then she will move on to the University of Houston.

“I just feel like I belong here in this class,” Fillmore said. “I want to be a pastry chef.”

DaQuan Whitfield said that after being in the class for the past two years he has decided he wants to pursue a culinary career as well.

“I want to have my own restaurant one day,” he said. “And serve soul food.”

Whitfield said the class has taught him a lot more than he expected.

“It’s taught me about team work, social skills and to have a great attitude,” he said.

Last year the students placed sixth at the Family, Career and Community Leaders of America Culinary Arts Competition for the Texas Association.

Wednesday they will travel to Austin for a wine and food conference, at which the kids will compete in cake decorating and knife skills. They also will be given a mystery basket with which they are expected to come up with a winning recipe based off a few surprise ingredients.

Fyffe said she looks forward to upgrading their outdated and crowded kitchen.

“I am excited about the bond,” she said, referring to the recently approved $136.5 million bond package approved by voters in November. “We have kids bumping into each other. We only have four burners and an old dishwasher. We also do not have a drain built in our floor so we have to clean them the old-fashioned way.”

Senior Cherisse Timm said it is her first year in the class and already she has learned more than just recipes and how to bake.

“It is fun learning new skills in the kitchen and reading recipes and measuring,” Timm said. “But one thing I have learned from our teacher — she has always taught us to be respectful toward one another.”