By Julie Huss
---- — DERRY — Pinkerton Academy culinary arts students have the right recipe for success in the kitchen.
Bring in a professional chef to show valuable techniques and it’s the right mix for a future career.
Pinkerton hosted its second “Chef to School” program last week, joining a working chef with culinary students for a day of teaching, learning, food preparation and inspiration.
Chef Nicole Barreira, corporate chef with Great NH Restaurants, was the featured guest chef.
Great NH Restaurants has been involved with Pinkerton’s culinary program since it began several years ago. Barreira said she was happy to help students who dream of cooking after high school ends.
“These are skills we need the rest of our lives,” she said.
Barreira earned her culinary degrees at Southern New Hampshire University and has worked with Great NH Restaurants for eight years.
She said students did well, learning the fine details of grating, slicing, dicing and shredding as they prepared vegetables for the evening’s salad course.
“There is lots to be learned,” Barreira told students.
The working culinary arts program joins other Career and Technical Education programs at the high school, including engineering, animal science, cosmetology, welding, manufacturing and finance.
Pinkerton’s culinary curriculum offers students three classes for 90 minutes a day, but many spend much more time in the kitchen.
Graduates also leave Pinkerton with a good start, certified to go on to higher education and food studies.
Bringing in local professionals adds another dimension to the kitchen environment.
“This is one of the coolest ideas we’ve stumbled upon,” said Jack Grube, Pinkerton’s CTE program director. “The chef teaches a lot and the meal is incredible.”
During Barreira’s day on campus, she had students prepare winter pork tenderloin, butternut squash soup, and a baked apple crumble dessert with caramel sauce
Pinkerton junior Ami Kenney was stuffing red apples with a crumb mixture. She said taking part in the culinary arts program is a great jumping off point for her future hopes to be a baker.
“I want to learn as much as I can,” the 17-year-old said.
Junior Alexia Firman said she also hopes to become a chef after high school.
“I always wanted to be a chef; it’s my passion in life,” she said. “I love cooking. This is a good start.”
Pinkerton’s culinary arts program is under the direction of professional chef Mark Cahill. It offers courses to give students fundamental training and education for future careers in the restaurant and food service field.
Studies include not only food preparation under Cahill’s guidance, but also customer service, pricing, hospitality and marketing.
Students not only helped plan and prepare the meal, but went on to serve food as Barriera offered demonstrations of her own talents to the Astro Cafe guests.
Cahill said the Chef to School program is a great way for students to see a professional in action in the kitchen. He hopes the program will grow.
“It’s an exciting opportunity for students to have some variety and the opportunity to network with local chefs,” he said. “They get a different chef perspective.”
Grube is looking for more local chefs who might want to get involved in the program.
“We tested the waters and it’s been very successful,” he said.
Grube said the next Chef to School event would be scheduled in the months ahead. A portion of the evening meal costs go to support culinary students and the program with scholarships, certifications, competitions and course materials.
Local chefs interested in learning about the Chef to School program can visit pinkertonacademy.org.