Mary Katherine Murphy
The instructors at Scotland High School’s culinary program plan to hit the ground running this fall with an increased focus on sustainability and catering to unusual diets.
This week, culinary program director Chefs Steven Dibble and Sam Richardson attended a four-day Central Carolina Community College workshop focused on sustainable food preparation. Scotland High food and nutrition teachers Mary Armstrong and Jessica Canty also participated.
“It’s a whole new trend that’s out there in the food service industry,” Dibble said. “It’s been out there for a couple of years but it’s now one of the biggest trends out there. Even just going from farm to table using local ingredients - local fruits, local vegetables, local meats, and things like that.”
High school students can take culinary classes in their sophomore, junior, and senior years, learning the art of commercial food preparation hands-on through the Bagpiper Restaurant. Scotland High’s culinary program enrolled 112 students for the 2011-2012 school year.
For the last year, the program has used fruits and vegetables from its own greenhouse on the school’s campus.
“My vision with the greenhouse part of it was to try to be as sustainable as possible within the restaurant,” Dibble said.
This week’s workshop helped the culinary and nutrition teachers broaden their horizons to the possibilities of sustainable cooking.
“Throughout the week we were able to work with many different types of items - many different types of greens and vegetables,” said Dibble. “They taught us about the nutritional aspects of it as well as being sustainable, using vegetables from the farm right there on campus.”
Both the high school’s food and nutrition courses, which students take as freshmen, and the culinary program are designed to open students’ eyes to options beyond packaged snacks, frozen dinners, and soft drinks.
“We’re trying to see how we can bring all of these issues into our curriculums, our society, such as it is, not having healthy food choices,” Dibble said. “We’re trying to teach our kids that there are other alternatives to the deep fried foods and the health benefits of foods coming from local sources.”
The niceties of growing and preparing food sustainably range from observation of nutritional values as well as the logistics of depending upon Mother Nature in running a business. “There are little bits and pieces that we got from everything such as Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids and vitamins and things you just don’t think about on a regular basis,” said Dibble. “There’s also time of growing, time of preparation and service, and how to prepare those items.”
The benefits of cooking with environmental and nutritional awareness benefit local food growers and food consumers alike.
“We may not be able to go fully sustainable here just because of other things within our curriculum or inability find certain products from local farmers,” Dibble said. ” But we’ll be able to incorporate the community into all of these things.”
In addition, culinary instructors plan to incorporate lessons on cooking for customers with dietary restrictions.
“We have so many people who have different diseases like Celiac disease or just intolerance to gluten,” said Dibble “We’re having to use different types of flours and other ingredients to make these products that are gluten free.”
Through the high school’s greenhouse, students will gain firsthand experience of the process that begins with planting a seed and ends with serving a salad.
“When we come back in the fall, we hope that the greenhouse will be able to provide us with most of our lettuces, tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers,” Dibble said. “We teachers are learning as we go, but it might make these kids a little more well-rounded, too.”