A donation from the Vitamix Culinary School program brought $5,000 worth of blenders to the student-run kitchen.
“It’s a partnership. You have to tell the Vitamix folks about your program. How many are you moving on into the industry? How many are you moving into postsecondary programs?” culinary arts teacher Richmond Flowers said.
The donation of three pieces of blending equipment has allowed the program to expand its breakfast options.
“We’ve already had multiple uses,” Flowers said. “The biggest thing we do with Vitamix blenders is fruit smoothies.”
Flowers said he found out about the opportunity through the American Culinary Federation.
“We were talking about doing smoothies before but we just didn’t have the equipment,” senior Susanna Austin said. “It has given us a lot more business, a lot more money (for the program).”
Senior Brandon Hicks said the students have been able to offer a variety of smoothies including banana, strawberry-banana, pineapple-banana, etc.
An apple pie smoothie is also in the works. He said what flavors are offered each day is decided by the student running the station.
While Austin hasn’t used the equipment much for making smoothies, she has used the new equipment when making desserts for the school’s bakery.
The department also recently completed installation of a new walk-in refrigerator and freezer.
Flowers said we “basically tripled our capacity” by removing interior walls and creating an open space. This allowed the installation of a larger refrigerator and the setup of a spice rack and pantry area.
“With all the functions that we do during school and after school ... our capacity was just — we were at the max,” Flowers said.
The refrigerator is larger than what the department previously had and makes catering operations more efficient, he said.
“I really like it and it does help us a lot because before ... it was hard for us when we did catering,” Austin said.
She said before the expansion the students could not do as much preparation work ahead of time because they could not easily store the trays of prepped food.
“I think it is going to help us a lot with business because we can properly store more food,” Austin said.
She said the improvements in the kitchen are giving students a better feel for working in a professional kitchen.
“For one thing, we can store our food properly,” Flowers said. “If you ever looked into our cooler (walk-in) before on a big day for catering we would have food stacked up from the floor to the ceiling. We’ve extended our cooler by 11 feet.”
The new cooler is also more energy efficient. Flowers said the cooler that was replaced was installed in 1972. He said the renovation was funded through capital outlay money.
Hicks said the changes were a little overwhelming at first, because many things were in different places.
“I’m loving the cooler, everything that’s going on in the back, our new spice rack,” Hicks said.
He said the new system is working well.
Both seniors plan to continue their culinary education at the college level. Austin has been accepted to Sullivan University. Hicks said he has applied to a few programs, but has not heard back yet.
“I’ve actually debated between one or two things and I came to the conclusion that culinary is the one thing I want to do for the rest of my life,” Hicks said.
The project began when classes ended for Christmas.
Students were using the new cooler a week after they came back. However, organizing everything and putting the finishing touches in place took a lot longer. The students also run a restaurant every Thursday. There are five courses offered in the culinary department. There are currently 135 students in the culinary program.