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Culinary Arts at FHS: Never Too Many Cooks in the Kitchen

CLIPPER Life: Charting a Course to Graduation

Falmouth Public Schools is a community committed to excellence for every student, every day. The CLIPPER acronym embodies the character of our student body. Clippers are Creative learners. They are Inquisitive, as Partners and Participants. They are Effective learners who are Resilient. This is the Clipper Way. 

Culinary Arts at FHS: Never Too Many Cooks in the Kitchen

By Sarah E. Murphy 

Culinary studentsKaitlin Hackett’s Culinary Arts students at Falmouth High School aren’t just honing their cooking and baking skills, they’re gaining professional experience while learning important life lessons that extend beyond the kitchen. 

The culinary program is one of eight Career & Technology Education (CTE) pathways available at FHS for which students can earn technical certification, including the ServSafe Allergen and ServSafe Food Handler certificates. The culinary curriculum includes four semester-long courses that can be taken as electives by students who do not commit to the pathway. Additionally, FHS students can pursue more than one pathway concurrently. 

Foods for Healthy Living (Culinary Arts I), Grades 9-12, offers an introduction to basic skills for food preparation and an understanding of nutrition principles, demonstrated through safe food practices to prevent food borne illnesses by preparing nutritious foods with healthy cooking methods. While overseeing food preparation, students gain a better understanding of the connection between nutrition principles and personal choices. Tangible experience is gained through laboratory work resulting in breakfast and dinner options as students see recipes to fruition, beginning with a list of ingredients and steps. Students must complete the course and also earn a teacher recommendation to progress to The Global Gourmet (Culinary Arts II), Grades 10-12, an advanced study in which safe food handling and preparation is a major focus. Students also learn about other cultures, exploring traditional diets of the Mediterranean, Latin America, and Asian regions of the world. 

In Baking and Pastry Arts, Grades 10-12, students practice techniques for utilizing basic ingredients to create classic desserts, with an emphasis not only on procedures but also artistic presentation. Lab work includes candy, breads, pies, cakes, specialty desserts and more. 

Upperclassmen in the culinary pathway program receive valuable industry experience in the final course, Restaurant Management, Grades 11-12, which offers the opportunity to manage the “Clipper Cafe,” a makeshift business that operates out of the classroom.

“Some of these kids have never stepped foot in a kitchen before, and you can really see them progress and gain confidence as they move through the pathway,” said Kaitlin Hackett, who teaches the program. 

She added that many of her students currently work in the food industry, from restaurants to grocery stores.

Mrs. Hackett studied Family and Consumer Sciences at Ohio State University and joined FHS shortly after she graduated in 2011. Since then, she has earned a Master’s in Education from Framingham State University with a concentration in Nutrition Education. 

She has participated in professional development at Johnson and Wales University and the National Restaurant Association. During the summer of 2023, she completed the Culinary Health Education Fundamentals (CHEF) culinary coaching through Harvard Medical School Teaching Hospital & the Institute of Lifestyle Medicine. 

“I’m always seeking additional ways to improve my own knowledge and skills to bring to my students,” she said. 

Mrs. Hackett and her students also use their skills to make a positive impact by giving back to the local community, such as baking pies to donate to the Falmouth Service Center’s Thanksgiving food drive; preparing soups and dessert for the Soup for the Soul fundraiser; collaborating with the FHS Food Justice program, and cooking meals for delivery to homebound residents through the Falmouth Senior Center. 

Students also gain experience in the most fundamental tasks, including hand-washing and drying dishes, which results in a teachable kitchen moment that illustrates the value of teamwork and collaboration. 

On a typical school day, the Clipper Cafe is already bustling by 7:30 am, while Clipper students fill pre-orders for coffee and freshly-made egg sandwiches, in addition to homemade muffins and scones baked in-house as part of their laboratory work. Additionally, students gain customer service and retail experience, handling financial transactions and interacting with customers when they arrive to pick up their orders, making sure the “front-of-house” operates smoothly. They are also tasked with executive decisions, such as menu-planning, calculating food and labor costs, and ordering, receiving, and storing food products, just to name a few. 

Senior Callidora Ward is pursuing the Culinary Arts and TV Broadcasting pathways, both of which she plans to pursue in college. Callidora joined the Falmouth Public Schools district when her family moved to Falmouth from Mashpee shortly before the pandemic. She grew up cooking and baking with her mother, a former baker. Callidora is candid about the fact she has suffered from anxiety since childhood, and for her, baking is meditative and also yields a sense of satisfaction. 

“I like to ‘stress bake.” Being able to follow a recipe and know this is how we’re doing it. It’s step-by-step. That’s calming to me,” she said. 

One of Callidora’s main motivations for pursuing the culinary pathway was the chance to take Restaurant Management. As she oversaw the check-out area, she explained procedures for online transactions. In an effort to provide optimal service to customers, Callidora also keeps an index card handy detailing how regular customers prefer their coffee. 

Callidora is confident the pathway experience will benefit her future endeavors. 

“I love having those certificates under my belt, and being able to go into an interview with them  gives me a small leg up,” she said. 

Joe Ledwick, a freshman in Foods for Healthy Living, credited Mrs. Hackett’s ability to engage students.  

“She helps us learn in class, and she focuses on every student to make sure no one gets left behind,” he said. 

Joe began the class with minimal experience in the kitchen, and although he isn’t planning on a culinary career, he intends to pursue the pathway for his own personal benefit. 

“I want to be self-sufficient,” he said. 

Senior Leo Ostroff, who currently works at Shaw’s supermarket, spent the last two summers preparing appetizers at Bluefins sushi bar on Main Street. 

“I was the last one to touch the food, so I was able to use a lot of what I learned in class, like knife skills and proper temperature for specific foods,” he said. 

He also cited Mrs. Hackett’s teaching style. 

“A lot of the things we do in the kitchen are fair and equal, and the food we make is really good, so I’ve learned a lot in that sense,” Leo said. 

Christina Femino, a junior, has enjoyed not just the cooking and baking aspect of the pathway but the exposure to other parts of the world. 

“I never knew the difference between baking soda and powder until I started taking these classes, and now I’ve learned how other cultures prepare different things, which is really cool,” she said. 

The Fall 2023 third period Baking and Pastry Art students recently had the opportunity to showcase an array of skills, from concept to fruition to presentation, at a professionally-inspired Bake-Off complete with in-person judges, including a 2019 FHS graduate who went on to study at Johnson & Wales. Submissions included a Grand Raspberry Trifle, Passion Fruit Mousse with a side of Molasses Cookies (representing Brazilian culture and a Massachusetts staple), Field of Fruit Cheesecake, Fresh Strawberry Cupcakes, and the winning creation - Strawberry Crunch Cupcakes. 

Superintendent Lori S. Duerr, who served as one of the judges at the January 19 event, was so impressed by the entries, she had a difficult time choosing a superlative.

“I was so impressed by the delicious and creative desserts prepared by our Clipper students, not only the finished product, but the way they were presented, including the descriptive write-ups for each submission,” Dr. Duerr said.

“The caliber of these sweets is like anything you’d find in a professional bakery. Our Clippers are so talented, and we’re lucky to have a teacher like Mrs. Hackett who provides these empowering experiences for our students.” 

Sarah E. Murphy