The St. Charles Parish Schools’ Satellite Center has many successful programs to boast about, but one of the most successful is the culinary class.
The culinary program is coming off of a recent 2nd place win at the Louisiana Restaurant Association Education Foundation ProStart Student Competition.
Patrick Phelan, who is in charge of the culinary program, said that every person who has passed through his classroom and has gone on to pursue a career in the cooking business has been successful.
But not all of his students take the class because they are interested in a restaurant career.
“About four or five students from each class will go on to culinary school,” Phelan said. “The rest are here because they wanted to come to the Satellite Center because it’s a great place to learn, prepare for college and it’s more independent.”
The Satellite Center has a unique grading system based on seven key components: content, career preparation, collaboration skills, critical thinking skills, oral communication, written communication and work ethic. Each teacher can decide how much each factor should be weighted to suit his or her class.
“For a cook, content is the most important thing,” Phelan said, adding that he gives that factor the most weight in his class. “When I do have kids whose grades suffer, it’s always from work ethic.”
Also important in the culinary program are collaboration skills and work ethic.
Bethany Branson, a student at Hahnville High and a team member in the culinary program, said that the program can help you hone those skills if you put in the effort.
“The culinary arts class has really taught me how to work with my fellow team members to meet guests’ needs,” Branson said.
Phelan said that while all of the students generally have great attitudes, they sometimes are hit with a case of senioritis.
Phelan was a law student who left school to pursue his culinary career. He started off at Maurice French Pastries in Metairie before moving on to Emeril’s Delmonico, Mike Ditka’s Restaurant and Cuvee Restaurant.
Phelan doesn’t think of himself as a teacher, but as someone who helps the students learn.
“I get the kids thinking and learning on their own,” he said. “I want them to leave this class understanding proper mis en place (the set-up in preparation to cook), organization of time and resources, how to handle a knife, how to perform basic cooking techniques, proper sanitation, how to clean and how to organize a cooler.
“If I was to hire you and you came with these skills coming out of high school, even culinary school, I would be impressed.”
Phelan said that the program is a good place for any aspiring chef to start off.
“If you’re interested in the restaurant business at all, I think you can be successful after leaving this program.”