March 2, 2023
No one is born a great cook; one learns by doing” – Julia Child.
Lancaster High School students are on their way to becoming great cooks thanks to the rigorous Career and Technical Education (CTE) Culinary Arts program. Led by Chef LaTina Dawn, affectionately known as Chef D, the program is just one of many CTE paths offered at Lancaster High School.
Culinary students recently had the chance to put their skills on display during the annual STEAM Expo. Student competitors participated in a Student Chopped Competition for the first time in STEAM Expo history. Chef D and her team challenged the students to craft two courses in 90 minutes.
“This year, the STEAM Committee’s goal was to expand the 2023 STEAM Expo by making it more competition-based while maintaining opportunities for students to showcase their learning and skills,” said Erica Butler, Lancaster ISD Title I STEAM Events Coordinator.
“Competitions are my thing,” said Chef D. “I was excited to work with the STEAM Committee to bring a cooking competition to the STEAM Expo. The community had an opportunity to see the students showcase their talents.”
Senior Tyrese Carrington has been in the culinary arts program for four years. He says participating in a culinary competition was a thrilling experience.
“I’ve been learning how to prepare food for years, and I was ready to put my skills on display,” said Carrington. “My partner and I showed up to the competition ready to win. We came up with a game plan and made it happen.”
During Chef D’s search for judges, she connected with a pair of brothers who own and operate The Breakfast Brothers restaurant and host a television show on CW33 called “In the Kitchen with the Breakfast Brothers.”
During the Student Chopped Competition, the Breakfast Brothers observed the students in action and discussed the competition and the culinary arts program. Chef D says the men were impressed with the student’s abilities.
“As the students were plating their dishes, the brothers asked me if it would be possible for the winning students to appear on their show,” said Chef D. “At first, I thought they were joking, but the offer was sincere. The brothers loved the food and appreciated the thought the students put into their presentation.”
A little more than a week after the STEAM Expo, the six winning students, including two students from the middle school, Chef D, and Erica Butler, traveled to the CW33 studios for the show’s taping.
“I couldn’t believe we were going to be on TV,” said senior Yohaan Mungroo. “But I wasn’t just excited about going on the show. I knew I could interact with people who are into culinary on a professional level. We were able to learn about their journey and get their take on the business aspect of the culinary industry.”
Chef D says the experience was more meaningful for the students than she could have hoped. The Breakfast Brothers talked to the students about the importance of entrepreneurship, shared life lessons, and emphasized how the students will have opportunities for employment in one of their restaurants.
“They want to help bridge gaps and even offer students internships,” said Chef D.
Sophomore Kameron Jackson says he’s been cooking since he was six years old and knew his way around a kitchen. He reflected on the one piece of advice from the Breakfast Brothers that resonated with him.
“If you want to start a restaurant business and eventually expand, make sure your food stays true to your principles. I want to start my own catering business one day, so I took this advice to heart.”
Chef D says she is grateful the students had the opportunity to compete in the Student Chopped Competition and appear on the Breakfast Brothers TV show.
“I believe in helping the students achieve their goals. If they want to pursue a career in the culinary industry, I will make it happen. If a student is interested in catering, I will put them on the catering team. If they’re interested in doing competitions, I’m going to put them on the competition team. I want each student to walk away at the end of their culinary journey with something they can call their own, whether it’s a recipe, a sauce, or a seasoning. Whatever it is, they graduate knowing they can create a successful future for themselves in culinary arts.”
Please click here to view the “In the Kitchen with the Breakfast Brothers” episode featuring Chef D and the LHS Culinary Arts students.
Lancaster High School: Tyrese C. and Yohaan M.
Lancaster Early College High School: Kameron J. and Knyah J.
Lancaster Middle School: Camryn C. and Faith G.