The staff at Columbus High School enjoyed a delicious meal last Thursday, May 20, but it didn’t come from the lunch ladies. The chefs, and servers, were Columbus students.
It was all part of the school’s Café Day, which allowed students in the school’s deep, intensive culinary program to spend an entire day cooking lunch for staff members that paid a mere $5 meal fee. The results came in via comment cards, and — surprise! — staff were delighted with the food.
“Feedback was overwhelmingly positive,” said Alan Richter, one of two culinary instructors along with Michael Barone. Both chefs have professional resturant experience before coming to Columbus. “Some people were asking, ‘Can we do this every week?’ And lots of them said they would have paid $10 or more for the food.”
Close to 150 students participated, of the 300 that are in the overall culinary program. Of course, 150 students can’t fit in one kitchen. The meal was served in three different shifts. Over 100 staff members ate the meal in total, and some opted for takeout, like at any real restaurant.
Ravyn Green, a junior, can attest to the hard work that went into this extravaganza. “All month Chef Barone kept telling us, ‘You guys, we really have to cram this! We have to get goin’ on these salads and make these chocolate cakes!’ We were so tired,” said Green. Along with the shrimp, the lunch menu included caprese salad, herb parmesan chicken, and vegetable lasagne. Many of these items they had been perfecting all year, so this was the culmination of an entire semester’s culinary curriculum.
For Green herself, cooking at the school was a treat because she doesn’t often cook for groups. Unlike some of her peers, she said she rarely cooks for her family, because they complain she likes too much seasoning. Green wants to do ophthamology, but said that thanks to her new training at Columbus, culinary arts would be a top fall back option.
Other students, Green said, do indeed wish to become professional chefs.
Gail Drillings, a special education teacher, was one of the lucky staffers to enjoy the student-made meal. “It was a fabulous effort by the kids,” she said. “I stopped into the kitchen and saw them working — they all looked so professional in their chef coats. I enjoyed watching the communal effort.” Drillings especially enjoyed the julienned vegetables. “Such nice presentation,” she noted.
The next and final culinary challenge for students will be making the dinner for a lacrosse team celebration. The Columbus boys are this year’s PSAL champions.