GRAVESEND – Bon appetit!
Budding chefs and entrepreneurs at John Dewey High School now have a state-of-the-art kitchen classroom in which to practice the culinary arts.
The city pumped $3 million into a project to upgrade the Gravesend school’s kitchen and the results were unveiled on Friday, Sept. 13 with a ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza, School Construction Authority President Lorraine Grillo and Councilmember Mark Treyger, who represents the neighborhood and worked with the City Council and Department of Education to secure the funding.
“I’m a happy camper today!” Treyger told the crowd of students and teachers as he stood in the massive kitchen after the ribbon-cutting. “This is the first time I’ve ever given a speech where the odor of challah French toast filled the air!”
Students in the school’s Business Management and Culinary Arts Academy arrived early in the morning and under the direction of chefs/teachers Michael Colon and Michelle Chan, prepared French toast, banana muffins, blueberry muffins, apple muffins, Quiche Lorraine, spinach quiche and other mouthwatering treats for the guests.
Sophomores Jayrisa Cruz and Cletas Deane handed out muffins to hungry officials from the Department of Education and the School Construction Authority. “I like working in here. It’s a nice kitchen. It’s big. The old kitchen was too small,” Jayrisa told the Home Reporter.
Both students said the hands-on education they’re getting in the school kitchen is inspiring them to think about future careers in the culinary arts. “I’d like to own a restaurant,” Cletas told the Home Reporter. Jayrisa wants to open a restaurant too, but would prefer to do it with a business partner.
John Dewey H.S., located at 50 Avenue X, houses five academies within its walls to enable students to become immersed in a subject area they find interesting.
The state-of-the art kitchen, located on the first floor, could be mistaken for a kitchen in a high-end restaurant, with numerous burners, industrial-size ovens, large refrigerators, cake mixers, student workstations and a dry goods storage area.
But Carranza, Treyger and Dewey Principal Connie Hamilton stressed in their remarks that the goal of the new kitchen isn’t just to give students a chance to learn how to cook, but to help them get a leg up on a possible career path.
“How do we create opportunities? This is a celebration of learning,” Carranza said. “We will see students in kitchens of their own and businesses of their own.”
The kitchen and the culinary arts program “insures the well being of our students’ futures,” Hamilton said.
“We are talking about expanding extraordinary opportunities for students,” said Treyger, who added that the hope is that the students will eventually find jobs in the growing hospitality industry in Coney Island, where new hotels are opening up.
The kitchen-classroom can provide a multi-faceted education, according to Colon, who said his instruction touches on all sorts of subjects.
“It’s math. You have to learn how to measure. It’s reading comprehension. You have to learn how to read a recipe. It’s teamwork and cooperation. You have to work as a unit. It’s languages. I sometimes will say something in French to them,” Colon, a chef with more than 25 years of experience, told the Home Reporter.
“When you give kids the opportunity to excel, they do amazing things,” Hamilton said.