Hope Secondary School has a new chef in town, or a few — the foods program, which is a major success after being built from the ground up with the hard work, patience and dedication of cooking instructor and teacher, Jeremy Smith.
Smith bravely took up the program which is now on hiatus with the advent of another school year gone by and the glorious summer months stretching ahead. He saw the opportunity to provide a lifeline to students who could prosper in the service industry and related fields, as they move on from HSS to pursue careers.
The program is going into its fourth year and has come a long way since Smith walked through the door in 2012. In a short time, Smith has transformed the food program and the kids along with it.
“I have to put a lot of time into recipes — I want the kids to be successful, so I break them down step-by-step,” said Smith.
The program a smooth operation now, was once running at a diminished capacity until Smith with over ten years in the food industry, brought some much needed alterations to the classroom — mostly elbow grease and grit as he dissected menus, engaged the kids and often spent twelve hours a day getting it right in the beginning.
Planning and budgeting were some of the biggest challenges according to the food officiant, who nailed them down, getting costs as low as 32 cents for each student per class.
Passionate about the students and his work, Smith carefully planned menus, budgeted, shopped and explained the techniques from a novice to advanced level, as his students from grade 8 to grade 12, learned the basics. The students were gently or not so gently nudged into several professional cooking settings, where they had the opportunity to cook four course meals for crowds in the hundreds on more than one occasion.
“They’ve provided hot lunches to other communities and served over 300 people at Coquihalla Sports Day. The kids also did a volunteer appreciation event for FVRD Area B representative Dennis Adamson — they all come together and they want to perform,” he said of the initiative of the group.
According to Smith his students cook with gusto and in a professional manner befitting any organized kitchen team.
On a budget, traditionally, it was assumed that food’s class was a good excuse to leave lunch at home, but Smith has foregone that conclusion and adapted brilliantly to implement creative cuisine on a dime. “We do teasers, it’s more about getting the experience — it’s very hands-on and we build from scratch, everything from the tortilla for a quesadilla or a tartar sauce to accompany a fish dish.”
Smith has made it a habit to get input from all of his students on foods they are interested in trying and he’s all about promoting and teaching nutrition and healthy lifestyles.
“I want them to enjoy and be engaged,” he said of his interactive and dynamic style, which was evident on the tour he gave The Hope Standard on the final day of food class for the semester. “I will have parents come back and say my son or daughter is cooking dinners at home every Monday and is confident to be in the kitchen.”
Upon entering room 15, also known as the food room, there was a moment of awe and appreciation at the sheer organization of the students as they prepared all measures of fresh ingredients at various stations. Tantalizing smells abounded and what appeared as controlled chaos was alive and well with the chatter and banter of the students as they sliced, diced, fried and even grilled on a BBQ, carefully stationed outside the classroom.
The kids were amicable as they happily tested, tasted and created fearlessly in the open and spacious kitchen, a kitchen that has accommodated spills, explosions and even a flourless cookie creation that looked like an oozing chocolate chip fest in the oven.
One thing was clearly observable — they were having fun.