OGDEN — Culinary arts is considered an art form, say several expert chefs instructing 200 students from across Top of Utah at a career fair Wednesday.
Students carved apples into intricate designs, arranged food on a plate so it looked appealing and made sure their lettuce was rolled up in the right shape before they started chopping.
Those were just a few of the skills taught by practicing chefs during the event, sponsored by the Utah Restaurant Association and Sysco Intermountain Food Services, and held in the Ogden Marriott.
Students from ProStart, a program designed for high school students to learn the basics of the food service industry, were invited to the event.
Most of the 200 students attending were from Layton, Northridge and Clearfield high schools in Davis School District; Bonneville and Fremont high schools in Weber School District; and Ogden High School in Ogden School District.
The students received hands-on experience they can use when they enter the workforce.
“We’re connecting students with the industry and training them by people who want to provide good opportunities for them and make sure they are ready to go to work,” said Melva Sine, president and CEO of the Utah Restaurant Association.
Sine said ProStart students eventually receive enough training and certification to become executive chefs and food directors.
Russ Barker, a corporate chef for Sysco Intermountain Food Services who was teaching the grains class, said he hopes students come out of the experience inspired to share their newfound skills.
“I think it’s key that we share what we’ve learned so they have opportunities, too, because if we don’t share, it becomes a dying art,” he said.
That’s exactly what Lisa Jeppson, one of Layton High School’s family and consumer science instructors, wanted her students to get out of the experience.
“I hope they’ll see and catch on to the excitement of the presenters who have worked for 30 years in the industry,” she said.
“They get to talk to real chefs and real people that are doing it day in and day out, and get to hear about the mistakes they’ve made, and suggestions of what to do that can save them time and money in their future.”
In the fruit and vegetable carving class, students learned how to carve an apple into a swan and a strawberry into a fan.
The instructor said the process isn’t that difficult but requires a lot of practice to get the technique down pat.
For Marissa Bean, a junior at Northridge High School in Layton, it wasn’t as easy as it looked.
“I’ve learned that I can’t handle a paring knife as well as I thought, but it has been interesting, finding out that people actually use this stuff for their decorative dishes,” she said as she cleaned up her work station after completing the intricate fruit carvings.
Bean said she planned to go home and practice the techniques.
In the fabrication class, students had more than 200 whole birds to practice on while learning how to break down and make use of an entire chicken.
The students learned how to cut the meat precisely into pieces as quickly and efficiently as possible without wasting any portion.
Their instructor, Michael Johnson, a chef at Sysco Intermountain, said the students learned an important skill.
“This is the first time most of them have ever fabricated a bird, but it’s just a basic skill they can take with them.”