DERRY — Pinkerton Academy culinary arts students have the right recipe for success in the kitchen.

Bring in a professional chef and that adds more valuable tools to the mix.

Pinkerton hosted the next installment of its Chef to School program last week, joining a working chef with culinary students for a day of teaching, learning, food preparation and inspiration.

Chef Brannon Soileau of the Culinary Institute of America was the most recent cooking expert to visit Pinkerton.

The Louisiana native had culinary students working on a menu that would be served to Astro Cafe guests later that evening.

The menu included cornmeal-crusted crayfish salad, Gulf snapper and dessert.

A portion of the evening meal costs go to support culinary students and the program with scholarships, certifications, competitions and course materials.

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.

Graduates also leave Pinkerton with a good start, certified to go on to higher education and food studies.

“When I go to college, I want to go into baking,” said Pinkerton junior James Haabe.

Pinkerton’s culinary arts program is under the direction of professional chef Mark Cahill and culinary manager Keith Desjardin. 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, but also customer service, pricing, hospitality and marketing.

Upcoming sessions include visits from chefs representing the Copper Door in Bedford and the Hanover Street Chop House in Manchester.

In addition to the “Chef to School” program, the Pinkerton kitchen team leads an Astro Cafe After Hours program, inviting the public to sign up for afternoon and evening cooking classes.

Guests get to use the Pinkerton kitchen and receive professional culinary instruction. The events are also teaching tools for the students.

“The events host as an opportunity for our students to be on the other side of the stove and serve as instructor assistants for the class,” Desjardin said in an email.

The next session of Astro Cafe After Hours is April 16 with “The Art of Risotto” with two sessions running from 3:45 to 5:30 p.m. and again from 6:15 to 8 p.m.

Local chefs interested in learning about the Chef to School program can visit To learn more about the Astro Cafe After Hours cooking classes, call 437-5200, Ext. 2149.

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