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The Pirate's Eye

The Student News Site of West Windsor-Plainsboro High School South

The Pirate's Eye

The Student News Site of West Windsor-Plainsboro High School South

The Pirate's Eye

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A taste of the Culinary Arts

Culinary Arts students preparing vegetable fried rice.

     Pushing the door open into Room 401, the aroma from the sizzling pans full of sweet peppers, spring onions and carrots immediately envelops me. With knives striking on cutting boards and water rushing on utensils, Culinary Arts class is an oasis from the usual classroom experience. 

    Featuring a homework-free curriculum, Culinary Arts is the first of the two levels of cooking courses offered at South. The classes are taught by Ms. Kimberly Bebawi and Ms. Jessica Bidwell, and fulfill the 21-century elective requirement. 

     “Using your hands, manipulating ingredients, playing with your food, it’s definitely a break in your schedule,” said Ms. Bidwell. 

     The stress-free nature of the class is an encouraging factor as to why students opt to take this elective. “Culinary gives me a break from studying,” said Karishma Afroze Shaik (‘27). 

   Nadia Burston (‘24), said, “I’m not a good cook at all, so I wanted to graduate high school with a basic knowledge of cooking.”

     While the class is catered towards beginners, the elective is also inclusive of advanced cooks. “We make sure to incorporate new equipment and additional challenges for anyone who may be showing higher skills. We also encourage those advanced skills to be shown within the group to increase collaboration,” said Ms. Bebawi. 

     As a beginner, Burston has felt the benefits of collaborating with people of different skill levels. “The kids who are better at cooking always help out the students who are still learning the basics by giving advice and tips to ensure everyone feels welcomed in the labs,” she said. 

     Everyday, a sign by the entryway informs students if there will be a cooking lab. Every lab group consists of four to five students, each taking on a role that rotates recipe by recipe. The roles include head chef, assistant chef, equipment manager, dishoom manager, and floater. “Throughout the five jobs, everyone has an important responsibility in every lab. We get to help each other produce the best results as a group which is reflected in our group grade,” said Shaik. 

     Although there were projects and safety quizzes at the start of the year, the grading system is now primarily lab-based. Groups are evaluated as a team for their organizational setup and end product. Additionally, each member is assessed individually for their collaborative effort and quality of work.

     Even with organization and collaboration, challenges are bound to arise. “Every recipe is not going to be successful. And whatever grade you get, you learn from that and you move on. But it’s a fun, hands-on experience to learn from and take with you. To be able to do that, it’s really a skill for life,” said Ms. Bebawi. 

     From cooking, cleaning and collaborating, it’s important to the teachers that this opportunity is available to everyone. 

     “We are aware of students’ allergies and dietary restrictions, whether it be religious or cultural reasons, so we have modified recipes, and are absolutely willing to come up with one to be inclusive for all students who are interested in this elective. In the past we have modified recipes for  students who are gluten free or lactose intolerant,” said Ms.Bidwell, ” said Ms. Bidwell. 

    These electives are also inclusive of international cuisines. Starting next academic school year, students can also take honors levels of International Foods and Creative Cooking, furthering this goal. “After you complete Culinary Arts, the next level is International Foods, where you learn and cook recipes from around the world, or Creative Cooking, where you learn to make creative recipes such as gingerbread houses,” said Ms. Bidwell. 

  In June, Culinary Arts will host a “Chopped Competition”  where students get to show off their skills and knowledge. Teachers and the administration act as judges and choose the winners based on three main categories: use of mystery basket ingredients, taste and presentation. After all groups’ dishes are tasted, the judges deliberate to come up with 1st place (4 points), 2nd place (2 points), 3rd place (1 point) and 4th place (0 points). Finally, winners from each class have a bonus round to have an overall Culinary Arts “Chopped” winner.

     Culinary Arts offers students invaluable skills with real-world applications. As Ms. Bebawi said, “It’s cooking. It’s eating. It’s collaboration. It’s fun, fun, fun.”

Shivan Dhungana (‘27) cutting vegetables.
Culinary Arts Pizza recipe. (ISHANI KONAR)
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About the Contributor
ISHANI KONAR, Editor-In-Chief
Ishani's pronouns are she/her. In her free time, you can find Ishani watching Netflix, drawing digitally, and spending time with her family and dog. She has been a part of the Pirate's Eye staff for 3 years and hopes to still be for the remaining year of high school.

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