The Ottumwa Courier

December 23, 2013

Mount Pleasant culinary program earns recognition

Ottumwa Courier

---- — MOUNT PLEASANT (AP) — Raeanna Crile said cooking comes easy to her.

“Only a few things come easy to me, and cooking does,” said Crile, a senior at Mount Pleasant High School. “Preparing a beautiful dish that people love is a good feeling to me.”

Crile has been learning about preparing food at Mount Pleasant High School. The school’s culinary arts program recently was awarded the American Culinary Federation accreditation.

It’s the first Iowa high school to receive the industry recognition and joins 131 secondary approved programs nationwide.

“What this means for students is when they fill out college applications, they are more likely to get scholarships based on the skills they learned in high school,” said Marjorie Beckman, culinary arts teacher.

Beckman said the food the students make in the class is from scratch.

“Instead of the traditional home economic’s Betty Crocker-cooking-from-a-box experience, the students are experiencing food preparation using professional skills and techniques to enhance their job opportunities after high school,” Beckman said. “So, when they go to culinary school, they know all the cuts, chops, sauces and what food pairs with what.”

Mount Pleasant’s culinary program began five years ago. Since then, the program has conducted an extensive self-study, upgraded its curriculum, completed professional development and modernized its equipment and facilities to meet the industry standards prescribed in the federation’s expectations.

ACF representatives paid a visit to the school last spring.

“You have to apply for the accreditation,” said Paul Beatty, director of instruction. “First, you say you are interested in the program, and they review it to determine if we are a fit or not. They figured we were a fit, so they came up here, and we told them what our curriculum is, how we teach it, and we told them about the guest chefs that come in.”

Guest chefs that come into the school include professionals from the culinary program at Indian Hills Community College.

The ACF approved the schools request for the accreditation earlier this fall.

“Students who have graduated from this class have went to culinary schools or community colleges, and they say they didn’t learn anything new until November, because they already knew everything,” Beckman said.

Beckman participated in three weeks of professional development last summer, traveling to Spain with a contingent from the IHCC culinary arts program.

The students also do a lot of catering for nonprofit organizations in the community.

“Last week, we made 50 loaves of rye bread for a church organization, and, in turn, they provided us with supplies, which helps my budget,” Beckman said.

Crile said she takes the culinary arts program seriously.

“I want to be a chef, and what I learn here I will be learning in college, and it will help me be more successful,” she said. “The list of things I know now is much longer than when I was here as a sophomore. I know the cuts and chops; I know how to cook meat properly; and I know how to measure temperatures.”