A survey taken by students a year and a half ago suggested a high interest in such a program at Cleveland. Renny Whittenbarger, Career and Technological Education supervisor, formed an advisory committee of local culinary managers to create the program.
“In my opinion, we were kind of weak in the artistic side in CTE programs here at Cleveland,” Whittenbarger said. “I felt this would [help negate] that weakness.”
Aside from student interest, the program looked like it would work well with those already in existence at the school.
Whittenbarger explained the culinary arts program could be combined with broadcasting, business, business marketing, the art department and communication for various projects.
“The marketing programs can do everything from how you market when starting your own business to menus to television commercials,” Whittenbarger said. “They can look into what appeals to men, what appeals to women and how to draw customers.”
A lounge and classroom in Cleveland High’s older wing were renovated for the new program. One room was transformed into a commercial restaurant kitchen while an adjoining room will function as a dual classroom and dining room.
Clyde Rush, a cooking veteran with over 20 years under his belt, has spent the past nine years educating high school students. According to Whittenbarger, Rush has started up two previous culinary arts program. One of these programs is Bradley Central High School’s much-celebrated Bears Bistro.
Rush has been involved at every step of the kitchen’s creation, from demolition to construction to purchasing the equipment.
“He has already taken the initiative to contact the state (education) department to get this program’s name out there,” Whittenbarger said. “He is really going at it.”
Students enrolled in the program will be separated into one of three Culinary 1 courses for the first semester of the 2013-14 school year. Whittenbarger said the program will most likely be 75 percent hands-on. He predicted Rush will have his students in the kitchen as soon as safety and the basics are understood.
The program can only hold 150 throughout the course of a school year with 75 enrolled per semester. Whittenbarger stressed the cap was a state ruling. Three classes will be offered per semester with 25 student in each.
Class levels will differ depending on the semester. While there will be three level one courses offered in the fall, only one will be offered during the second half of the school year. There will be two Culinary Arts 2 classes offered following winter break.
According to Whittenbarger, Culinary Arts 3 will not make its appearance until the 2014-15 school year. He said he would eventually like to see a Culinary Arts 4.
“This will be for students who have taken the first three,” Whittenbarger said. “Instead of staying in class, they will go out and work. It will be a work-based learning experience.”
Continued student interest and the success of the program could make this possible. Whittenbarger said there is a lot of interest among the teens at Cleveland.
“I think one of the things that brought the notoriety to the program is all of the attention you are seeing on the TV with shows like Hell’s Kitchen,” Whittenbarger said. “I think not only do [students] like the competition, but they see the potential there to get educated.”
Continued Whittenbarger, “Culinary arts is more than just flipping burgers. There is a marketing side to it. There is a business side to it. There is also the possibility of making a good living.”