Lockhart High School culinary program stirring up success
By Kristen Meriwether
Ashlyn Robinson spent most of her life cooking with her grandmother. She found cooking interesting but had never thought about a career in the culinary field. It wasn’t’ until she began taking culinary arts classes at Lockhart High School as a junior, that the idea of career crossed her mind.
She began down the Culinary Arts pathway, part of Lockhart High School’s Career and Technology Education (CTE) program. The program gives students the technical skills needed for the 21st century workforce and/or post-secondary education.
For Robinson those skills were more than just baking cakes at school. It was about learning to organize herself in the kitchen, prepare menus like a professional chef, and most importantly, getting her Servsafe Manager Certificate as a junior in high school.
“We had so many different opportunities given to us,” Robinson said in a phone interview with LPR Feb. 1. “We were able to see and do so many different things and to open our eyes to the possibilities we could look forward to.”
For Robinson, who graduated from Lockhart High School in 2015, that was utilizing her Servsafe certificate and fast forwarding her career into a management position six months after getting her pastries and baking certificate from Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts in Austin.
“When you walk in the door in the food industry, and you say you have that, you have a leg up on everybody else,” Culinary Arts teacher Traci Brodbeck said in a Jan. 29 interview.
Earning the certificate isn’t just a one-time class students can take. The Culinary Arts Program begins freshman year with Intro to Culinary Arts. Students earn their Food Handler’s Card, something required by the Texas Department of State Health Services for any entry level food service job.
In Culinary 1, typically taken a student’s sophomore year, students are prepared to take the Servsafe Manager exam. It’s a rigorous test that not every student passes, but is paid for by the district.
During this class, as well as Culinary 2 their junior year, students work in the classroom kitchen which includes three stoves, a convection oven, commercial dishwashers, and a baking center. They don’t just learn to cook, but the business and safety side of running a restaurant.
“Our industry is not just about preparing food,” Culinary Arts teacher Lisa Linebarger said in a Jan. 29 interview. “It’s also customer service, sales, and making sure that safety and sanitation are followed in the establishment.”
For their senior year students can do a practicum where they are employed in the community. They not only earn credits towards their diploma, but they put money in their pocket. This year students have been employed at the Lockhart Bistro, McDonalds, Whataburger, and Casa Jalisco.
“They are continuing to get educated in this field, even though they are under somebody else,” Brodbeck said. “It’s a great experience. And they love making the money.”
For Robinson, her journey has come full circle. As the kitchen manager at Bois D’Arc Assisted Living she’s now teaching a Lockhart High School senior in her kitchen. Because she went through the same classes, she understands what the student is being taught in class and knows how to work through problems her student runs into.
“I’m so fortunate to be able to work with them and have gone through the class because it really helps to help her,” Robinson said.