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They're cooking now

PHOENIX — A push to increase culinary class offerings at Phoenix High School has sparked student interest and brought a grant to aid with supply purchases next year.

Jim Janousek taught culinary classes half-time this year after Principal Jani Hale increased the offerings, which had been a basic class for several years.

“I mostly focus on nutrition and food and getting kids interested in cooking for themselves,” said Janousek. “There’s also the health aspect.”

Enrollment for fall culinary classes next year is at 162 compared to the current 70 students. Leightman Maxey Foundation awarded the school $5,500 to purchase local organic produce and meat next year after Janousek applied for a grant.

Students in the Farm to School and Culinary Arts II classes Thursday made ice cream. It was the second day in a row for ice cream production as the budget for supplies is low and ice cream is relatively cheap to make, Janousek explained. A different process was used each day.

“I’d done cooking before at home, but nothing like this,” said junior Steven Humphries. “It’s pretty fun to learn how to cook different things with the same stuff.”

Students work in teams of three to six, rotating different roles with a chef always in charge. There are six stations with stoves, sinks, microwaves and cooking implements in the lab area.

“With our groups, we get to practice leadership roles,” said Eliza Conchas, a junior. Many students gained a greater appreciation for fruits and vegetables through the class, she said.

Farm to School II is designed to include basic cooking, gardening skills, health and nutrition, and agriculture. That course or Culinary Arts I, offered in the fall, are prerequisites for students who want to take Culinary Arts II, which covers creating meals for others, meal planning and baking.

One assignment in Culinary II is preparing a multi-course meal for five or more people. Students must submit photos of the meal or produce signed documentation from a parent.

Janousek partners with the Rogue Valley Farm to School Program and with local farms, restaurants and grocery outlets to enhance the classes. Students also work in the school’s garden and greenhouse.

“We can go out in the garden and grow our own ingredients,” said sophomore Cheyenne Ellis. She’d taken culinary classes at another school, plans to attend a culinary institute in Portland and would like to be a chef with her own restaurant.

One student in Culinary II learned more about how to cope with recently developed food allergies.

“I’m allergic to all fruits basically,” said Cedrus King, a junior. He discovered products like rice and almond milk and explored alternatives that can fit into a diet.

“I’ve gotten stuck with special needs. I’ve never cooked with some of these ingredients,” said King.

Janousek hopes to add a food sciences class to next year’s offerings. This year he also taught physics classes. He’s worked in restaurants much of his life.

After teaching at Eagle Point for two years, Janousek took 2012-13 off to help a friend open a restaurant in Berkeley. A substitute much of the next year at Phoenix High, he was hired full time last fall.

Tony Boom is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach him at tboomwriter@gmail.com

Phoenix High School juniors Brandon Calhoun, left, and Cedrus King make ice cream Thursday during a new culinary class. Mail Tribune / Jamie Lusch