Culinary class in Central Lunenburg offers lessons about more than just recipes

Central Lunenburg

Culinary class in Central Lunenburg offers lessons about more than just recipes

Published Thursday, October 6, 2022 at 3:37 PM

VICTORIA – At Central Lunenburg High, Culinary Arts instructor Alicia Hilliard has one rule: canned food is a last resort.

“Our kitchen is a scratch kitchen,” Hilliard said. “We generally don’t use anything from a can. For the most part, all our own dough, all our own sauces, we make everything ourselves. That’s how they get to know everything.”

In this case, they are the students. Having previously worked with the Lunenburg County Library System, this is Hilliard’s first foray into teaching and she wants students to walk away with both new experiences and skills they can use in the future. She shares various recipes and dishes from other parts of the world, giving students the opportunity to travel in their cooking.

“I like reaching different parts of the world because I think kids from Lunenburg might not be able to travel that much and we can do that with our (food),” Hillard said. “So we do a lot of international food and I give a lot of background information about that particular country or area that we’re focusing on.”

She teaches students how to make their own dough and then build ham and cheese mills. They learn how to make puddings and bake sweet treats so that the students can learn how to use equipment and read recipes.

“I try to get them to do some basic baking in the beginning so they get to know their way around the kitchen and how to use the equipment and read a recipe well and, you know, measuring cups and all that sort of thing,” said Hillard. “Then we will explore different cuisines.”

Central Lunenburg launches ‘Bean Machine’

But learning about recipes, baking and equipment isn’t all Hillard’s students do. She has added a new project to the class, one that teaches business and economics skills. That’s where “The Bean Machine” comes in. Hillard and her culinary students run their own coffee shop at the school.

This is a really functioning coffee shop, where students make the food and drinks, handle the waitstaff and learn how to run a restaurant. The students chose the name and spent time developing the menu.

“We take it straight to the employee who ordered it and they can use a guest check, which is important if (the students) want to go into the hospitality industry so they can read and change a guest check,” Hilliard said. “It really puts an emphasis on their customer service. It’s a great idea, I think, because they get so many different aspects of the restaurant business in this little, little coffeehouse.”

It’s an idea that came to life by complaining about space.

“I complained to my (Career and Technical Education) coordinator that it’s so annoying that our kitchen is in one building and the classroom is in another,” Hilliard said. “And I said, I wish we could take the kitchen lab to Central High. And she responded, so why don’t you get out of your room? It just grew from there and the kids were so excited we just got to work on it.”

More plans in the making

Hilliard’s ideas for the classroom don’t stop at Central Lunenburg coffee shop. The group is also already accepting catering projects on a limited basis, ordering a wood-fired pizza oven to expand the range of what they serve.

“We have a catering job coming up – it involves about a hundred people. It’s for a baby shower and it’s coming next month,” Hilliard said. “We also do a lunch box program where we sell a complete lunch, dessert, amuse-bouche… and we sell that to the staff. We’ll start that as soon as they get wet feet in the kitchen, which should start in a few weeks.”

In the coming months, the culinary class will also hold a cake sale and have the students come up with different concepts.

“We’ll do a few pop-up restaurants (on campus),” Hilliard said. “We’re going to do pop-up wing stands, we’re going to do a pop-up donut shop. I think we are going to expand and also offer some more baked goods in our coffee shop. The kids immediately wanted to make cinnamon rolls, so I think we can practice that next week and offer it as a special.”

Working to eat intelligently

At the end of the day, Hilliard hopes to be able to teach her students on Central Lunenburg skills they can use and how to make informed choices about what they eat.

“I think everyone should know where their food comes from and understand how much work and resources it takes to fill your plate,” Hilliard said. “And eating well is a conscious choice, because it not only fills your body with nutrition, but also affects our planet. I try to encourage our children to make informed decisions so that they can eat intelligently.”