OTTUMWA — Chef Gordon Rader said he never wants his current advanced class of students to leave Indian Hills. He trusts this class enough to let them develop the upcoming eight-course scholarship dinner.
"They're chefs already," he said as he watched them work on several international dishes he was testing them on.
Many of the students actually knew they were interested in food before they got out of high school. A few had even done some cooking at Indian Hills while they were still in high school.
Nick Duree studied food preparation while at Ottumwa High School. He even took some college credit classes. And while a student, OHS foods teacher Deb Kent brought her best cooks to Indian Hills for the high school level Iron Chef competition. Kids have limited time to prepare some complex dishes. Even the stress in the Hills kitchen re-enforced Duree's desire to study culinary arts.
"The stress part's the best," he said. "The fact that you're under time pressure to execute everything correctly, to keep your food hot and fresh, that's difficult. And when you execute it correctly, it feels really good."
Mason Altheide also did Iron Chef while he was a student at Davis County High School. He was used to working harder than the average student. When he completed all available foods classes at DCHS, the next step was an advanced class where high school cooks prepared breakfast for classmates. While some kids show up tired at 8:20 a.m., Altheide and the other cooks showed up ready to cook at 7 a.m. — then went to class an hour later. So was he able to do that because he's "a morning person?"
"I learned to be one," he said.
It was when he listened to a guest speaker that he finally decided cooking was for him. The speaker at his high school was a Davis County graduate who then went to The Hills before heading out into the work world.