Tech Center prepares students for food service careers

12 years ago
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Aroostook Republican photo/Natalie Bazinet
Every student serves an important role in the Viking Korner Kitchen, as explained by Instructor Juanita Campbell, at left. Whether pouring water, like Whitney Boyce, or presenting customers with a menu, like James Wilson, it takes the entire kitchen staff operating efficiently to seamlessly serve a delicious meal.

By Natalie Bazinet
Staff Writer

CARIBOU — Each year, eight students of the food services program at the Caribou Regional Technology Center not only learn their way around a kitchen, they develop skills that will help them obtain occupations in the restaurant industry.

Though the menu of the Viking Korner Kitchen may be relatively limited, experiences offered to students through the program are abundant.

Most recently, the class hosted a successful chicken stew and ployes special on Sept. 19 to welcome staff and faculty back to school with the classic County dish while honing their multifaceted education of the food services industry; the special event was one of four holiday-inspired dishes that the class serves every year.

After the dumplings and stew were enjoyed by about 20 satisfied customers and the kitchen was returned once more to its impeccable state of cleanliness, students and their instructor Juanita Campbell had an opportunity to discuss the event together.

Though the class fed about 20 people, “it feels like a hundred,” said tenth-grade student James Wilson with smiling exaggeration. Wilson, who donned a suit as the event’s Maitre ‘d, and the class’ six other students each had a specific task during the event — whether it was seating customers and distributing menus to clearing dirty dishes off the tables and pouring glasses of water.

“Everybody’s job is so useful … and we worked as a team,” Campbell explained. “That’s what we do here; we teach teamwork.”

While the students do learn the importance of working together in the food service industry, Campbell and Education Technician Heather Parisien also help students become skilled in customer relations, customer service, job attitudes and, of course, safety and sanitation. In addition, students are specially trained for a multitude of restaurant occupations through real-world experiences at Viking Korner Kitchen.

With four large specialty lunches held every year in addition to serving the normal Viking Korner Kitchen menu and a weekly special, students like sophomore Casey Clark welcomed the added challenge of preparing the holiday meal.

“I thought it was a lot of fun,” she said.

Making the chicken stew and ployes from scratch, students agreed that the hardest part was de-boning the chicken.

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Aroostook Republican photo/Natalie Bazinet
Performing their tasks about the Viking Korner Kitchen were, from left, visiting Caribou Regional Technology Center Food Services alumnus Rachel Wasson, at left, and student Casey Clark, at right.

Campbell estimated that they’d de-boned about 10 pounds of poultry, which was just one step of the prep work.

Discussing the event, students chimed in about all the different facets that went in to the chicken stew meal — chicken de-boning aside, they had to chop the vegetables, make the broth, cook up the dumplings and ployes, just to name a few.

While a lot of “elbow grease” certainly went into the meal, the event helped Campbell reinforce an important lesson for the students: “Things have to look good,” she explained, informing her students that 95 percent of the dining experience is presentation.

It would seem that students are honing their kitchen skills quickly, as many customers shared praise like “nice work” and “very good” with the chefs.

Weekly specials are served each Wednesday at the Viking Korner Kitchen, and the eatery is open weekdays for fast-food styled favorites.

The students who routinely manage the Viking Korner Kitchen include seniors Brittany Bouley, Jamie Gilbert, Whitney Boyce and Christina Thompson; junior Nikki Farley and sophomores Clark, Wilson and Natasha Smith.

Community members wishing to enjoy the students weekly special are encouraged to RSVP in advance to the tech center by calling 493-4270.