HUDSON — Last Saturday, instead of seeing a movie or hanging out with friends away from the school, culinary students at Fivay High School devoted the better part of the day cooking in preparation for a fundraiser for their fellow students.
All levels of culinary teacher Stefanie Spack-Adam’s program worked together to create a menu from scratch and cook and serve a four-course meal to diners who had paid for the scrumptious meal.
More than $1,000 was raised by students, teachers, administrators and community partners purchasing $25 tickets or sponsoring a whole table for $200. The money will help the Autism Spectrum Disorder Unit at Fivay purchase new classroom technology, like iPads, to help students with autism learn and communicate with one another and their teachers.
The dinner gave culinary students a better insight into the food industry as a whole. They learned about international cuisine, management and communications skills, menu design and catering service, and cost control and inventory.
“This is their first experience with anything of this scale,” Spack-Adams said.
Spack-Adams said she and her students and social studies teacher Eric Johnson and some of his students have put about 1,000 hours of work into the dinner in three weeks time. Some of the students started their day prepping food on Saturday at 9:45 a.m. and didn’t leave until well after 8 p.m.
Outside the school’s main office, several tables decked out in black tablecloths filled the hallway. Each had a centerpiece plant with the pot decorated and signed by students from the ASD unit. Each place setting was also given handwritten thank-you note and an Autism Awareness Ribbon with a puzzle pattern that reflects the mystery and complexity of the autism spectrum.
The different colors and shapes represent the diversity of the people and families living with the condition. The brightness of the ribbon signals hope — hope that through increased awareness of autism, and through early intervention and appropriate treatments, people with autism will lead fuller lives.
Before their guests arrived, the budding chefs and future restaurant managers scurried about making final preparations. On one side of the school’s kitchen, Sarah Bergin topped off a tray of brushetta servings with a sweet glaze. Other students chopped up the mangos for a tropical salad or sliced lemons for ice water.
Some of the cooking had been done earlier in the day, such as the desserts, an African Dessert sampler made of briwat, souskluitjies and Monrovian coconut pie tartlets.
The Greek-inspired entre included chicken and beef skewers. Each course of the meal represented different countries- Italy, Central America, Greece and Africa- countries and regions chosen in November for homecoming week by the different grade levels.
While Spack-Adams and Johnson helped with preparations and answered questions, the bulk of the planning, organizing and cooking was done by students, who’ll be graded on their efforts. Spack-Adams isn’t concerned; they’ve worked hard.
“They’re owning it, which is just killer,” Spack-Adams said.
The project is also a joint venture with Johnson’s economics students. They’ll take the data from the culinary students, including cost of food, labor and other relevant materials or equipment, analyze it, and compare it to real food industry businesses. At the end, their cost analysis will help the culinary students produce a more cost-effective, efficient dinner for next year’s fundraiser.
“It’s better than a textbook,” Johnson said.
You can follow Daylina Miller on Twitter at @DaylinaMiller.