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Beyond Cooking: Culinary Arts Sparks Careers

Beyond Cooking: Culinary Arts Sparks Careers

  • Team PGCPS |
  • February 7, 2020

Enter Crossland High School on a Wednesday at lunch time and seniors in Chef Muriel Homesack’s Culinary Arts class are busy running a cafe. Clad in aprons, hair nets and gloves, some students move through the kitchen shredding cheese, simmering chicken and beef and layering tortillas which they serve up as tacos with a sweet cranberry coleslaw, a brownie dessert and iced tea. 

Other students package and deliver the meals or run the financial side of the business — a weekly, student-run cafe that provides the school’s teachers and staff a lunch option right on site.

“The teachers love it because they don’t have to go out for lunch and they’re supporting our program,” said Homesack, a chef classically trained in Europe who brings decades of five-star, catering and high-volume experience into her American Culinary Federation (ACF) secondary accredited Crossland classroom and kitchen.Crossland HS Chef Muriel Homesack

Chef Homesack is among many PGCPS Career and Technical Education (CTE) instructors who transitioned to the classroom after serving as leaders in their industries.

“I had no idea I’d be here in a high school classroom,” she said. “I came to teaching because I love to bake bread with folks. I loved to share my ideas. And cooking is such a joy to me to share.”

The weekly cafe at Crossland offers a snapshot of the power of the culinary arts program, where students not only are learning food prep, safety and technique but also the business side including food cost, volume, sustainability and soft skills like customer service. These are the sum of the functions of  a restaurant, known in the industry as ‘front-of-the-house’ and ‘back-of-the-house.’

This inclusive training pays off.

Upon completion of the program, students earn industry certifications including the ServSafe food management certification and ACF certified junior culinarian.

In her more than ten years with the program, Homesack says students have been awarded more than $5 million in scholarships and many move on to business, culinary training or receive scholarships to start their careers.

For the Class of 2020, one of those students is senior Bardino Joyner, who is headed to the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York after earning a $33,000 scholarship.

“It’s been a great experience. Chef Homesack brings so much knowledge to the classroom and has been helpful with scholarships and getting into school,” Joyner said.  “I love the community we have in the classroom and have become in love with cooking over the past few years.”

Learn more about PGCPS Culinary Arts program locations plus how to apply, and see instructors and students in action!