MHS students prepare to feast the school

MHS students prepare to feast the school

Twenty-six turkeys, two hundred servings of pumpkin chocolate chip bars, one hundred pounds of vegetables, and fifteen gallons of from-scratch gravy – that’s how much our ProStart Culinary 1 students harvested, roasted, carved, prepped, baked, and made for the annual Mancos Schools Thanksgiving Feast held on Thursday, November 17th. Under the guidance of certified ProStart instructor and food service director Janet Fogel, Mancos High School students created the meal that fed over 500 students, parents, staff, and community members.

Many know Janet Fogel as the food service director for Mancos Schools of the last eleven years. Some may not know that three years ago, she undertook a new endeavor – teaching culinary classes for our high school students.

ProStart Culinary 1 & 2 have been popular classes with students. This course is a true Project-Based Learning experience. Skills are taught through recipes and role plays. Students learn food safety, knife skills, teamwork, baking, serving, and culinary math while preparing dishes such as Hawaiian sushi rolls and cucumber salad. Each student has their own set of bowls, cutting boards, measuring cups, and knives that they keep in large totes, ready to be used each day. 

As a Career and Technical Education (CTE) program, ProStart Culinary must participate in a certain number of community service hours each year. At first, Mrs. Fogel wondered how to accomplish this with students’ busy schedules. Then she realized that students could put their skills to the test as they prepared the annual Thanksgiving lunch. In true PBL-style, students not only prepared the feast, they also harvested the vegetables from the school garden with the Montezuma School-to-Farm staff!

Students like Danny Mendoza took what they learned from the Thanksgiving meal prep and applied it to their own Thanksgiving dinners. There was a great sense of pride in making food that “everyone would eat and like…I feel like that experience should be taught in every culinary class, [the task of] cooking for a big event.” The class fits in nicely with Mendoza’s future career goals; he says he’s very interested in pastry and dessert making. 

McKena Mack says that she and others have not only learned from their successes; they’ve learned from their failures as well: “Our failures taught us to pay attention…We have to be more organized.” Cole Dainty-Guilfoyle agrees. When making pumpkin bars, “one of the groups forgot to put in sugar. The bars came out very baking soda-ish. Cooking and baking are a science so you need to be precise with your measurements and know what you’re putting in there.”

Recently, the class participated in a role play in which half the class acted as restaurant servers at a fancy 5-star restaurant and the other half acted as customers. Mancos staff members with experience from serving at Dunton Hot Springs were on hand to help answer questions about the rigors of restaurant work. Students had to know how to set the table, take an order, bring in food in the proper order, bus the table, and handle unruly customers. All students said that this was a fun project that they learned a lot from.

As for their own Thanksgiving meals, all but one student in the class helped prepare a dish for their families on that day. Three students even made the turkey! The ProStart Culinary class is making meal prep a piece of cake for Mancos High School students.