MCHS’ Culinary Program is Thriving

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MCHS’ Culinary Program is Thriving

A Cub Culinary student displays a gourmet sandwich.

A Cub Culinary student displays a gourmet sandwich.

A Cub Culinary student displays a gourmet sandwich.

A Cub Culinary student displays a gourmet sandwich.

Anne Grady, Staff Reporter

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The Madison Consolidated High School Culinary program has undergone somewhat of a transformation under new adviser LeAnne Blackerby this year. “We have two aims: to help students learn to cook and feed themselves and their loved ones well, and to help them prepare for jobs in the field,” stated Blackerby when describing the Cub Culinary mission statement. Blackerby, who up until last year, was a Language Arts teacher, has culinary classrooms bustling with all kinds of opportunities for fun and learning.

“Next year I have all Family and Consumer Science classes (FACS), a couple of sections of Nutrition and Wellness, Intro to Culinary, and Hospitality,” Blackerby said. “It can be troubling to find extracurricular classes that you genuinely enjoy to fill that hole in your schedule. These kinds of classes are perfect for the holes in your schedule.”

According to Blackerby, the Cub Culinary program will continue to expand in the following years. “I want to see kids excited about food, making really good choices when it comes to what they eat and what they cook, (and) understanding that they can do it so much more inexpensively if they do it themselves.”

Cub Culinary adviser, LeAnne Blackerby

Culinary classes are not just about eating food. They can teach important life lessons that will stay with students forever, and help them in the future.

“The culinary class has helped improve my skills drastically. Especially knife cutting skills because we spent weeks perfecting how to properly hold and cut with a knife, which is one of the most important skills to know while cooking,” said MCHS Sophomore Milan Jackson. “I have learned many valuable lessons. Good things take time (especially food), you will not like everything you try, and experiment as much as you can to find amazing combinations and create new foods.”

Not only will these classes tell you how to prepare food, but they will also help you make the right decisions when it comes to what to eat. “I am a huge fan of the seasonal farm to table movement and getting people to eat things that are not just shelf-stable, microwavable food, and fast food.  I love those things too, but I want to see kids make really good choices when it comes to their nutrition and be adventurous with food,” said Blackerby. “I think food is one way that we connect to people from lots of different cultures.”

The Cub Culinary program offers a variety of projects around the school for students to get involved with, too.

“So far this year we have done the chili cook-off, we catered the Ohio Valley Choral Festival, we fed the directors and put on a nice Italian meal for them.  We put on what we called an all-sides Thanksgiving dinner, so no turkey and ham, but everything you would serve with it. We also made great cookies at Christmas time.”

Cub Culinary has taken on great challenges and received great feedback on every single one of them. Next month, they will have four different caterings, including a senior breakfast, as well as helping Mr. Rusk and Mr. Barger put on the breakfast for the AP history students the morning of the exam, and an upcoming project with Jobs for America’s graduates or JAG.

Cub Culinary students are involved in one of the many hands-on activities in the class.

Blackerby hopes that some of her students will continue on to get jobs in the culinary industry. “My family are professionals in the restaurant business, just not here in Jefferson County, and I would like to see kids get excited about food to the point where they’re either making really good dishes for themselves and other people or whether they actually want to follow it up and go into the restaurant business or some form of professional cooking,” she said.

Blackerby has taken the time to invite different kinds of guest speakers to the program to teach the kids valuable skills that have taken the program to the next level, also. “We had a visiting executive chef from my family’s restaurant, Blackerby’s Hangar Five. He has taught students everything from knife skills to mother sauces, which are a big deal in French cuisine. Chef John Heitz, a local restaurant owner in Madison, Indiana, came in and taught students how to throw dough for pizza.”

“I enjoy the time spent in the kitchen more than anything in this class. Cooking with friends is a much better way of learning than by yourself, in my opinion at least, because you’re having fun while learning important skills at the same time. So being in the kitchen cooking is by far my favorite part about this class.”

There are so many diverse and entertaining opportunities available when it comes to choosing electives, but Blackerby really hopes students will begin to view Cub Culinary as an excellent choice because of its fun and the real world applications.

“I really hope that the kids are enjoying it as much as I am,” said Blackerby.

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