Queen Creek High School senior Brittney Bryant spent her Thursday morning culinary arts class slicing turkey ham with an industrial meat slicer, preparing hot chicken sandwiches right out of the industrial ovens and wrapping the hot food in foil pouches.
As Bryant learned how to use the meat slicer for her first foray into cutting meat, she joined nine of her fellow culinary arts students in the school cafeteria to get hands-on experience working in an industrial kitchen setting.
"It helps me get a feel of what to expect and how to work with other people," said the 18-year-old, who wants to go into baking or some other type of culinary art. "It's good experience."
It's the first year the school has offered the second-year culinary arts class, and the first time the students have been able to work with cafeteria employees to gain that real-world experience, said Annette Hudnall, the culinary arts teacher.
"I teach all of this in the class, but it really brings it home when they really have to do it," said Hudnall, who is in her first year at Queen Creek High and came from the Mesa Unified School District. "It's a lot different when they have the pressures of serving the public."
In the classroom, the students learn everything from food-borne illness and cross-contamination to interpreting recipes and cooking regular food healthier, Hudnall said.
In the cafeteria, the students don their hair nets and aprons for a half an hour every Thursday to learn the ins and outs of a commercial kitchen. It's also experience the students can use in their own kitchens or for future jobs in a restaurant.
Food service manager Jennifer Reed has the students use the various industrial kitchen appliances, from the sealer that hot-wraps the sandwiches to the steamer that cooks the vegetables.
They're learning about food temperature control, storage and rotation. The students are also learning how to record and track inventory, how to measure large quantities of food and the correct ways to sanitize equipment and themselves, Reed said.
"This is similar to a restaurant, and it's right here on site so it's really convenient," Hudnall said. "When dealing in bulk, it's a lot different. Instead of measuring one cup, they have to measure one gallon."
Senior Nicole Royce spent her class time Thursday prepping pizzas for the oven and putting hot cookies into individual serving pouches. Although she wants to go into some type of art and marketing career, the 17-year-old said "it's cool" to learn how to use the cafeteria commercial equipment that the students don't have in the classroom.
"It's fun," said Royce, who likes to cook. "I've learned how to finely chop up food and sanitation rules. It's better than being in the classroom."