Culinray Arts: A Rising Opportunity

Natalie Bachman

It goes without saying that the pandemic impacted the Leigh Community in a multitude of ways. Although the school community is still recovering, the past two years have allowed for new growth – including the introduction of the Culinary Arts program. Taught by Mr. Tony Palma, culinary students investigate a range of topics, ranging from food science to culinary careers. For students interested in culinary professions, or even those simply interested in developing their kitchen skills, the revitalization of the program has proved to be a valuable opportunity.

For some of the older Leigh students, the culinary arts program is not new. The class was offered during the 2019-2020 school year, but the COVID-19 Pandemic caused the class to be discontinued the following year. Although the kitchen equipment was available, they had been in storage for years. Palma expressed working “many nights and weekends going through boxes of supplies, finding some items in perfect condition, while others were broken, rusted, or in need of replacement.” However, the experience wasn’t entirely negative. Preceding the re-establishment of the class, the Campbell Union High School District upgraded the classroom facilities with new floors, appliances, and cabinets. These new facilities have provided students with a unique opportunity to explore cooking at a deeper level.

For Jocelyn Menjivar Gutierrez (12th grade), the Foods class has provided a valuable opportunity to learn about the ins and outs of everyday cooking skills. “I really got to understand how to prepare and read recipes, how to work the oven, and being confident cooking/baking,” she commented. Her favorite project from the year was making pumpkin pies, because she “got to enjoy it with [her] family.”

Students have had the opportunity to develop a wide array of skills, ranging from making yeast doughs to homemade cheese. Some of their previous projects have included making pizza, muffins, soft pretzels, ice cream, and cookies. The coming weeks will also include an exploration of global cuisines, which will include making pupusas and shawarma. Students in the Foods 2 class, which will debut in the 2023-2024 school year, will have the opportunity to make more advanced sauces, multi-course meals, and learn about the culinary industry from business and career-oriented perspectives.

With course selection approaching, Mr. Palma encourages interested students to stop by room 18 if they have any questions. Although the program is being “[rebuilt]… from scratch,” he views it as an “exciting opportunity to reimagine what the program could look and function like for future students.”

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