Future chefs to get new kitchen at John Dewey High School

June 27, 2018 Paula Katinas
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Too many cooks spoil the broth, as the old saying goes. But that’s not true at John Dewey High School.

The school has a culinary arts program for budding chefs and hotel entrepreneurs that attracts large numbers of students each semester. The program is part of the school’s Business, Hospitality and Tourism Academy, a separate course of study within the larger school.

But the stoves in the kitchen-classroom are outdated, according to John Dewey officials, who said a makeover is in order.

And that’s exactly what the school will be getting.

On June 26, Councilmember Mark Treyger came to John Dewey High School at 50 Avenue X in Gravesend to announce the start of a $2.8 million project to build a new classroom-kitchen for the school.

Treyger secured the funding for the project in the city budget.

Construction is expected to begin this week, the last week of classes. The new culinary center, to be located on the school’s first floor, is scheduled to open in the spring of 2019.

The state-of-the art facility will contain numerous and refrigerators, student work stations and a dry goods storage room, among other amenities.

That was music to the ears of students Jazmin Hernandez, Sofia Presume and Midlee Dorlette, who have just completed their freshman year at John Dewey and are looking forward to cooking in the new space. “It sounds like it’s going to be great,” Hernandez said.

The three students said they enjoyed taking part in the culinary arts program this year. “I don’t cook that much at home, so it was great to get to try things here at school,” Dorlette said.

Under the direction of chef-teachers Michael Colon and Michelle Chan, students have prepared everything from soup to nuts. The culinary program stresses healthy eating. Chicken parmesan is baked, not fried, for example.

The program also teaches students to be more precise, something that can carry over into other subjects, according to Colon. “Baking is chemistry. You have to measure everything exactly. If you’re just a little off on the baking soda, the cookie is ruined. The students learn to concentrate. That can help them no matter what the subject matter,” he said.

Visitors were invited to enjoy a taste of the students’ work. In the hallway outside the construction site, a table was set up filled with trays of chocolate chip cookies, brownies, cranberry tarts and other sweets.

Connie Hamilton, the principal of John Dewey, said the goal of the culinary arts program is to provide students with a pathway to employment. “We want our students to leave here with the skills they need to more their lives forward,” she said.

Treyger, who said he enjoys cooking at home in his spare time, with freshly-made pasta being his signature dish, added that the new culinary arts space will do more than just teach kids how to cook and bake.

“This is more than education. This is life experience,” Treyger said, adding that students could use the things they learn here to get jobs in restaurants and hotels. “If we invest in our students, we’ll see amazing results,” he said.

Treyger noted that the food service and hospitality industries are two of the fastest-growing job sectors in New York City. The food service industry saw a 52 percent increase in hiring between 2005 and 2015, according to the New York State Department of Labor.

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