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by Ellie Spielberg | January 19, 2012 New York Teacher issue
Conversation flies as visitors dig in at a banquet where food and education meet. Words like “crostini” mingle with “curriculum”; “graduation rate” with “gorgonzola.”
About two dozen young chefs, along with their culinary arts teachers at Food and Finance HS, stand behind long tables laden with the kinds of food one reads about in magazines but rarely gets to eat. Olive tampenade. Curried chicken mousse. Yucca cake with caramelized onions and parmesan. Dainty, perfect French pastries.
It is heavenly, the food prepared by students in this midtown Manhattan neighborhood west of 10th Avenue known as Hell’s Kitchen.
The small grade 9-12 school, which opened in 2004 and has a graduation rate of 82 percent, was putting on a preview of its annual Restaurant Day.
“The crab cakes are crusty without being too hard or soft inside, as they should be,” said one guest, UFT President Michael Mulgrew. “The empanada pastry is flaky, and that’s hard to achieve.”
Mulgrew was impressed with the students’ collaborative attitude as much as with their masterful skills: “When I asked who made this or that, they said, ‘We all did.’”
Chapter Leader Geoffrey “Chef Geoff” Tulloch gave the cook’s tour to Mulgrew, UFT Vice President Sterling Roberson and Alice O’Neil, the union’s Manhattan high schools representative on the Dec. 20 visit.
Seeing the pride that students had in their creations, Roberson said, “This only shows that when given the opportunity, students become incredibly proficient and are enthusiastic about showing that proficiency to the community.”
O’Neil, who previously served as Food and Finance’s chapter leader, stressed that “the UFT was instrumental in getting this chapter off the ground — everything from budget to safety to getting jobs for our students.”
Guidance counselor Paula Astor, sampling the fare, said that the school is an exciting place to work.
“We have great raw material and the staff works well together to turn it into a nice finished cake,” she said.