In his first year at Cape High, teacher Donald Vanderslice has already brought change to the school’s culinary and hospitality pathway, starting with the front door.
“We keep the door open so the program is visible,” he said of the overhead stainless steel door that opens into a spacious commercial kitchen and adjacent classroom. “A lot of people didn’t even know we had a program.”
Vanderslice said students are literally learning to cater to customers.
“We give out samples so it will lead to a purchase,” he said. “They do cost analysis and purchasing. They need to know math so they can convert measurements. The business aspect is just as important as cooking.”
Freshman Mitchell Bunting said his class often caters events, citing a dinner before the December school board meeting, a first for the culinary program. Students prepared beef tenderloin, French green beans grown in the school greenhouse and oven-roasted potatoes to present to school board members.
Students in other pathways contributed to the meal. ILC students baked dessert, a warm holiday cherry cake. Horticulture students created seasonal centerpieces and made salad from fresh greenhouse ingredients. Business students designed the menu.
Freshman Logan Dittemer said students converted the culinary classroom into a restaurant for the event.
“We cooked the food, served it and kept checking on them,” he said.
At a recent breakfast alumni event, students served bagels and coffee. Logan said they also cooked latkes for a party held by school club Hebrew Christian Alliance.
“Cooking is my favorite part, and eating, when we’re allowed,” Logan smiled.
This year, students said they have made pasta, steak, omelettes, fried potatoes, pancakes, ham, bacon, French onion soup, clam chowder, fajitas and cornbread.
Vanderslice said parental support helps students succeed.
“Parents have been phenomenal in getting students to our events so they can work,” he said. “Students are gaining experiences that will give area restaurants a pipeline of potential staff.”
Another change this year involves the school food pantry. Vanderslice said students use food donated to the Harry K Foundation pantry to create meals for students in need to bring home, rather than just giving them a few cans and other ingredients to prepare on their own.
“We started doing it only on Fridays so students could take meals home over the weekend, but we expanded it so any day a student needs food, we have it,” Vanderslice said.
The kitchen freezer is stocked with pasta dishes, tuna casserole, eggs, cornbread meals and other dishes stored in containers donated by the Zwaanendael Women’s Club. Students come in during Vanderslice’s planning period to create the take-home meals.
“The kids want to help people,” Vanderslice said. “They know there are hungry kids. It’s all possible because of Harry K.”
Vanderslice said through the culinary and hospitality pathway, students learn much more than how to cook. They learn finance, accounting, public speaking and hospitality law, which could lead to careers in entertainment, journalism and law.
“I’m blown away every day by their competitive nature and common-sense approach,” he said. “The industry can be very lucrative. With education, you can write your own ticket.”