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HAGERSTOWN, Md. (AP) — There are no lunch ladies at Washington County Technical High School.

However, you might find a 17-year-old with aspirations of enrolling in culinary school or a few kids manning the stove out of sheer curiosity.

But there are definitely no lunch ladies.

At Tech High, the students are the ones who cook the food and serve it to their fellow students and teachers. And they’ve won fans among their classmates and teachers.

“I eat it every day,” said Tech High principal Jeffrey Stouffer. “What other schools do London broil?”

Culinary arts instructor Tammy Twigg and a trio of kitchen assistants lead 25 students 11 juniors and 14 seniors enrolled in the culinary arts program. Class requirements call for making enough food to serve 400 people, a task they have to finish by 11:38 a.m. daily in order to be ready for the school’s three lunch periods.

Tests aren’t given in “Top Chef”-style elimination rounds, where students must present a meal before a panel of judges, Twigg said. The students are tested the old-fashioned way and are graded on how well they execute a task, such as making french fries. The idea is to prepare them for jobs in the food industry or, at the very least, teach them the importance of a good work ethic.

“My goal for all of them is to work at being their best whether or not they choose to go on in the industry,” Twigg said.

Many of Twigg’s students have decided to stick with cooking after graduation. Lauren Pincus, 17, of Hagerstown, was accepted to Johnson & Wales University, where she intends to get a bachelor’s degree in bakery and pastry.

“I’d love to work on cruise ships,” Lauren said. “You get to travel and you get to do what you love. You can’t beat that.”

Kevin Sokol, 17, of Hagers-town, plans to attend the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y. He hopes to open a bakery or pastry cafe.

“I could work hours a day at it and not ever feel like I’ve been working,” Kevin said.

Maurice Forero, a 17-year-old senior who lives in Hagerstown, had a similar story. He’s eyeing a couple of culinary programs in Florida. As of late, Maurice, Lauren and Kevin were preparing for a statewide competition in Baltimore in March. Maurice planned to demonstrate how to make patacones, fried green plantains often served as a snack in Colombia, where his family is from.

“People must eat to live,” Maurice said. “l love making people happy with food.”

The Herald-Mail visited the culinary arts class at the start of the week, on taco salad day.

The first wave of hungry high-schoolers would descend on the cafeteria in less than an hour, yet the mood in the kitchen was calm.

By 11 a.m., the 13 students in the kitchen had peeled and cut 50 pounds of potatoes for Wednesday’s mashed potatoes, were working on homemade apple tarts for Tuesday’s dessert, were getting a jump on
Tuesday’s lasagna and were finishing up the day’s meal. A group of cosmetology students were sitting in the cafeteria on a break. They were all fans of the lunch food.

“It’s definitely a lot better than other public school food,” said Annie Schapiro, 17, of Cavetown. “It’s not just pizza every Friday. There are a lot more things to choose from.”

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

Comments (2)
  1. bernard mc kernan says:

    This is a good program & idea. Kids can learn a possible career at best or learn to cook for their families later in life. Never enough skills to learn as young people. Who wants a life working minimum wage jobs at McDonalds or Jiffy Lube?

  2. Michael says:

    I am a Marine Corps vet and most people don’t realize that during Marine boot camp, each and every recruit passing through Parris Island has to do this same thing prior to graduating from Boot Camp. Towards the end of a recruits thirteen week tenure in camp, they would spend a week performing mess duties for the other recruits on the base.

    This was an enriching, team building opportunity for us and I can’t find anything wrong with local students doing the same. Great idea, keep it up.

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