Catering to students’ educational interest

By Aaron Reynolds
The Surveyor

Berthoud High School students Kris Gereaux, left, Jaden Rink, center, and Taylor Fooks, right, serve hors d’oeuvres Friday, Dec. 4, at the Wildfire Community Arts Center in Berthoud as part of the trio’s culinary and catering class. Photo courtesy of Amber Wharton / The Surveyor

Berthoud High School students Kris Gereaux, left, Jaden Rink, center, and Taylor Fooks, right, serve
hors d’oeuvres Friday, Dec. 4, at the Wildfire Community Arts Center in Berthoud as part of the trio’s culinary and catering class.
Photo courtesy of Amber Wharton / The Surveyor

Beyond the cafeteria that serves breakfast and lunch at Berthoud High School there is something else cooking. Today a group of 20 students are making tacos; next week it might be chocolate cake. Family and consumer science teacher Amber Wharton encourages it all inside her catering classroom equipped with traditional items like an oven and stove, as well as a commercial-size refrigerator and freezer.

Wharton – in her fifth year with the school – has brought back the year-long catering class to the high school after it was abandoned several years ago. In addition to catering, the family and consumer studies department also offers classes completely dedicated to interior design and “teacher’s cadets” (for aspiring consumer science teachers), which Wharton acknowledged is “very career focused” compared to your general home economics class you may have attended in the past.

“You get to experience what it is like to cater for free, then decide if this is what you want to do with the rest of your life before attending pricey university programs,” Wharton explained.

Lauren Dietz, left, Teagan Ives, center, and Jordan Crout, right, prepare food for an event.

Lauren Dietz, left, Teagan Ives, center, and Jordan Crout, right, prepare food for an event.

After passing the introductory culinary careers and nutrition course that teaches students the farm-to-table fundamentals of culinary; students may enroll in the full-time catering class that ventures past the classroom to provide real-life experience, as students serve small fundraisers and other events two to three times a month. Since September the culinary class has catered everything from the monthly Thompson School District board meeting to 500 members at the Chilson Recreation Center.

“It was kind of funny because (Chilson) was our first event and also our biggest,” Wharton said.

Some of the hors d’oeuvres prepared by the students for the event.

Some of the hors d’oeuvres prepared by the students for the event.

The group has created and served several different items, including types of soup, chili, hors d’oeuvres and dessert. They learn the importance of nutrition and seasoning along with new-age approaches to cooking, like self-sustainable farming and organic goods.

Upon completion of the course students become certified SERVSAFE members, an important National Restaurant Association badge that is recognized by more federal, state and local jurisdictions than any other food safety certification and extraordinarily vital to landing any job in the food industry. However, that is not all the class instills.

“The class teaches students to work with other people, something you can use for the rest of your life,” Wharton commented. “Maybe two out of the 20 students might want to get into the catering industry, but teamwork and problem solving are what employees are looking for and may not be covered as well with the CORE classes.”