Good cooks are always in demand, and skilled chefs can command a high price on the job market. The culinary arts class at the Wilson County Career Technical Center works to produce students who are prepared to become chefs.
The state-of-the-art kitchen students now have at the new Lebanon High School makes that a whole lot easier.
Skills USA is an after-school club, and the students begin in September, meeting each Wednesday. It helps prepare them for state and national competitions where they can win scholarships. All this under the watchful eye of culinary arts instructors Lindsay McQuirk and Mike Micco.
"We have around 50 members overall," McQuirk said. "But they're not all here [Wednesday]."
Students who are a part of Skills USA on Wednesday swore in new officers and prepared for one of the preliminary Iron Chef competitions that will culminate in an ultimate Iron Chef competition in the spring.
"Today, the competition will have two teams who will be given a secret ingredient for their meal," said Junior Erin Clemmons the club's new reporter.
Regardless of what kind of chef the students hope to be, they compete in different types of competitions to sharpen their skills.
"I want to be a baker," Clemmons said, adding that the kitchen at the new high school makes all kinds of cooking a lot easier. "The kitchen is better. It has a bigger refrigerator and more storage.
The new president of the club, Craighton Paulson, is a senior at Mt. Juliet High School, which doesn't have a culinary arts program, so students from that school, and Watertown High School, travel to Lebanon to participate.
"I come here once a week or more," he said.
McQuirk and Micco are also happy with the new digs.
"I love it," McQuirk said. "We have a lot more room."
She said next up for her students is the annual soup competition set for Nov. 18 at Wilson Central High School, and it's open to the public.
"It's a big competition," McQuirk said. "For $1, anyone can taste all the soups. It starts at 1 p.m. with the judging at 3:30 p.m. There will be students from WCHS, LHS, WHS and MJHS will be in the competition, and there will be cash prizes for the winners."
She encouraged all her students to join in the soup contest.
"Enter for practice," she said. "It's a timed event and will help you learn to get it out in time using proper safety and sanitation procedures. Do it No. 1 for fun and No. 2 for practice."
McQuirk also told her students she would be bringing in guest instructors to help them with resume writing and interviewing.
"That will help prepare you for your vocation," she said.
Then the new officers, Clemmons as reporter, Zoey Harrington as vice president, Aaron Gilbert as treasurer, Paulson as president, Brittany Trull as parliamentarian and Destiney Sanford as secretary, were sworn in.
Staff writer Mary Hinds may be reached at 615-444-3952, ext. 45 or firstname.lastname@example.org.