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East Rowan culinary students feed staff who helped build new classroom

GRANITE QUARRY — When East Rowan High School closed for summer break in June, classroom 604 was a Cold War relic, but it transformed into a 2021 commercial kitchen when classes started in August.

Culinary teacher Katie Misenheimer credited East Principal Tonya Brinegar-German for thinking the program could do more.

“With a 1959 kitchen, I had already done a pop-up restaurant in December of 2019,” Misenheimer said.

The new space is equipped with all the storage, refrigeration, ovens and burners it needs to take on a full service. Misenheimer decided the program needed to take advantage of its new facility by serving lunch on Wednesday to some of the maintenance workers that made it happen. The room was completely gutted, and construction students at the school helped with that as well.

When a school identifies a project, RSS Construction Manager Jeff Holshouser said, construction and maintenance department staff members come in, break down the school’s needs and make plans to finish the project. A budget gets worked out, and the district brings in subcontractors as needed.

“The school helped us out quite a lot,” Holshouser said. “They gutted the room for us and gave us a blank slate.”

The district renovated a culinary classroom at West Rowan High School during the previous school year, and there may be another culinary room up for renovation at East. Holshouser said these projects are fun because the school is a big part of the process.

“This makes me smile every day when I come in,” Misenheimer said.”I already love what I do, but this just makes it even better.”

Misenheimer said she knows her students can do more, and the new space will jump-start bringing more people in and passing more plates from the kitchen.

Lunch on Wednesday was fresh grilled chicken salad, with a summer food option of a slice of key lime pie or look ahead to the fall with a pumpkin roll.

At East, students start taking basic foods classes. When they get to culinary class, they start by learning about mise en place, the preparation and organization process for restaurant cooking, before moving on to using recipes and focusing on staple ingredients like eggs.

This year, students have made eggs benedict, crème brulée and are moving into soups, sandwiches and appetizers. Today, students will complete a plating lab.

Misenheimer said students are most interested in eating at first, but they learn to enjoy cooking and want to do more at home.

For the service on Wednesday, students applied for different jobs. Fiama Alsaro, a sophomore, was running the front of house. She said the food industry interests her, and cooking is an everyday skill. She already took foods I and II classes, and the subject has kept her interest.

“I cook at home mostly every day,” Alsaro said. “I watch my little sister. So, I cook for her daily. I cook for my parents. I cook for special occasions. It is kind of new to me learning new techniques and knife cuts, but I had a pretty good knowledge of it.”

Working in a setting more like a real restaurant makes her enjoy food in a different way because more people get to enjoy it. She is considering going to culinary school, but is not sure yet.

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