Local Students Sizzle in Culinary Education
Story by Ryan M. Judge
Photos: (TOP) Caecilia Wyman, (RIGHT) Jillian Barnes
Despite nationwide funding cuts, some local arts programs are not only surviving but also thriving. Case in point: Millbrook Central School District’s culinary arts program, which not only sends students to national cooking competitions but is also involved in testing recipes for a new national cookbook.
Over the past eight years, Millbrook’s Family & Consumer Sciences teacher, Ryan Judge, has been working to revamp and grow the program. The program, offered to students in grades 6 through 12, includes occupational culinary arts courses such as eighth-grade Introduction to Culinary Arts, two high school–level catering courses and the opportunity to be involved in Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA). FCCLA is a national organization whose focus is to build leadership skills in students through family and consumer sciences education.
The culinary courses use an interdisciplinary approach, nurturing skills outside the common curriculum. “Too often, students’ real talents go unnoticed in traditional subject areas,” said Dr. Phyllis Amori, principal of Millbrook Middle School. “With the culinary course, Mr. Judge provides students an opportunity to get a taste of real-world experience, while gaining knowledge in academic and skills areas.”
This year all culinary students have had the unique opportunity to develop their skills while learning about the publishing process. Millbrook students have been working as a test kitchen for a bakery in Washington, DC. While details cannot yet be released, this bakery will be publishing their first cookbook for mass distribution. Millbrook students receive potential recipes to test for the book. After producing the recipe, the students provide feedback on the recipe to the book publisher for consideration before the final recipe is published. This project is one example of the practical learning experiences provided to students through this program.
Many students continue their passion outside of the classroom through their involvement with Millbrook’s FCCLA chapter. While Millbrook students have been competing at the NYS FCCLA Leadership Competition for four years, last year they had their first culinary team. In 2016 every single Millbrook student who competed, including the culinary team, earned the highest ranking in the state for their event and qualified to represent the State of New York at the National FCCLA Leadership Conference in San Diego. Millbrook’s culinary team was honored to achieve a bronze-medal ranking at nationals. Millbrook’s other FCCLA students all brought home silver medals for their respective competitions. “It was an honor to represent New York State in the culinary arts competition,” said Millbrook alumnus Miles Robb. “It was an experience I will remember for the rest of my life.”
“Not only do our students develop academic knowledge through this program, they also develop employability skills, leadership skills and earn college scholarships,” said Millbrook High School Principal Caroline Pidala. In the past four years, Millbrook students have earned over $26,000 in college scholarships to places like Johnson & Wales University, the Culinary Institute of America and more.
This year Millbrook hopes to continue their success with two culinary teams—one high school team and one middle school team. The Family & Consumer Sciences program at Millbrook looks to continue sharing a passion for food and agriculture with students through incorporating the district’s new School Garden Initiative into its courses.