Now in its second year, the Montezuma-Cortez High School catering program’s schedule is filling up quickly, instructor Kanto McPherson said Thursday.
Students in the program provide catering services, mostly for school district events and nonprofits such as Piñon Project, McPherson said.
“It’s really growing,” she said.
This year, 86 students enrolled in catering classes, and the program added a second session of Catering 2, she said.
The 65 students in Catering 1 learn about the basics, such as kitchen safety and the major food groups. The 21 students in Catering 2 break into groups of three to cook recipes throughout the year, and cater to different groups. Any profit goes back into the program to buy ingredients, McPherson said.
With the increased number of students taking the classes this year, the program is experiencing some growing pains in the classroom-size catering room.
“It’s a challenge, but it’s what we have, and it’s beautiful,” McPherson said of the kitchen and stainless-steel equipment.
McPherson said teaching students the business side of a restaurant, such as how to manage income and a budget, is important, and that some students have gained internships at local restaurants.
“We want to give students real-world experience,” she said.
This month, students have been cooking beef, McPherson said. A grant from the Colorado Beef Council allowed the class to fill the freezer with almost a whole cow, she said, allowing students to learn how to cook various cuts of beef.
Junior Quentina Blueeyes is the head chef for one of the Catering 2 classes. She said she plans to go to college to become a chef after she graduates from high school.
Blueeyes said cooking is therapeutic, and the class makes her excited about coming to school each day.
“You have to have a big passion and a lot of patience,” she said. “It’s really fun.”
Senior Deidra Goodall said she took the class because she likes to cook and it’s a fun class.
“You can cook whatever you want,” she said.
International cuisine is a favorite among students, McPherson said. Native American students have taught classmates how to cook frybread and Navajo tacos.
McPherson has a passion for health and nutrition, and she said it’s fulfilling to see her students learn new things in the kitchen.
“I love to see students leave and have the knowledge to be able to feed their families,” McPherson said. “That’s why I do it.”
McPherson is exploring offering a family cooking class for the community through Cooking Matters, a La Plata County nonprofit. Families would learn how to cook fast, affordable and healthy meals to eat together, she said.
McPherson said she would like to see the kitchen opened up for community members to use for cooking in the future. The kitchen is a valuable resource for students and community members and has lots of potential, she said.
“It will continuously grow,” McPherson said. “I have high hopes for where it will be in five years.”