Hanover High gives culinary students an edge in local market

Khloe Grassmyer, 17, carves out half-spheres of cantaloupe and connects them with toothpicks to make wholes — matching green and purple grape globes suspended on wooden skewers, surrounding a pineapple base.

The Hanover Senior High School senior is making an edible arrangement for her Baking and Pastry class, in which students learn skills involving garnishes, sauces and plate presentation.

Hanover High School senior Khloe Grassmyer chooses a knife while designing an edible arrangement assignment in a culinary class at the school Friday, Nov. 9, 2018. Bill Kalina photo

The elective was recently added to the school's expanding culinary program — which is now in its second year of offering a micro credential to students, based on their completion of skills approved by a committee of local businesses.

It allows them to know what these businesses need in 2018, said assistant principal Marc Abels, making the students more marketable in the local and global economy.

A leg up: Although especially helpful for students such as Khloe — who plans to apply to the Culinary Institute of America — the culinary credential also gives a leg up to any student working in the restaurant industry.

“So maybe instead of working at the front of the house or busing tables, they can enter as a line cook,” Abels said.

The program has always been popular, said culinary teacher Susan Salvitti, but now with the credential, it’s more career-driven — not the traditional homemaking concept but skills they can use in the workforce, and students appreciate the options.

“I just like learning new things and learning about cooking,” said junior Brianna Bowen, 16, who plans to take more culinary classes in college.

She took her first in eighth grade, but she said this year's baking class is a favorite because it offers a more comprehensive skill set.

The school also added classes this year in café and restaurant management — in which students help run the school’s café — and preparing entrees, which covers soups, stocks, breakfast, meat cuts, fish and main course foods. 

“I think that a lot of people who are in the culinary business now probably wish they had a lot more availability in their own high schools, so I think we’re really lucky to have what we have,” said senior Malcolm Ellis, 17.

Salvitti said 170 are enrolled in the culinary program — out of 490 in the student body — and “that’s a pretty significant number.”

Hanover Senior High School hopes to begin offering apprenticeships with businesses for seniors by second semester this year or next year.

“I think what we’re doing is pretty innovative, and most importantly, it’s best for students,” Abels said.

Hanover High School junior Michelle McDaniel has a taste of a dessert while talking with a classmate during a culinary class at the school Friday, Nov. 9, 2018. Bill Kalina photo

Labor shortage: Hanover High is not the only school expanding its culinary offerings.

A national labor shortage in the restaurant industry created a need for more students to pursue culinary jobs after graduation, said Brian Peffley, a board member for the American Culinary Federation Education Foundation.

The National Restaurant Association has been projecting it for the last 10 years, he said, adding that since the stock market crash of 2007-08, the number of people eating out and buying prepared meals has been growing.

"Usually the last thing that people want to cut out of their budget is eating out," he said.

Peffley, also a chef at Lebanon County Career and Technology Center, helped start a post-secondary apprenticeship program at the school, enabling students from any school to be hired at the Hotel Hershey, Hershey Country Club or Hershey Convention Center and graduate certified sous or working pastry chefs — basically starting in management.

Hanover High School junior Izzy Oropeza puts a finishing touch on her dessert assignment in a culinary class at the school Friday, Nov. 9, 2018. The final entries were judged by fellow students. Bill Kalina photo

Red Lion Area Senior High School  plans to expand its program next year, using a curriculum nationally recognized through the American Association of Restaurants and adding a sanitation — or proper food handling — course from the accredited Pennsylvania College of Technology.  

Since food preparation is an art that improves with repetition, the earlier students can start the better, Peffley said.