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Serving up experience in culinary class
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Chantel Burton, a Sierra High senior, works with Culinary Arts teacher Amy Lee in preparing the lasagna lunch for a group of educators. - photo by VINCE REMBULAT
During the spring, Amy Lee’s Culinary Arts students had the task of catering two major events within a week.

Those in the Regional Occupational Program received rave reviews from Manteca Unified educators for their work in providing food and refreshments for the annual District Art Show in early May.

Two days later, the class at Sierra High had its biggest job to date, catering the Best of Manteca awards event held at the home of Mick and Kristin Founts.

“It was a learning experience,” Lee said of the community-wide soiree. “It was our first outside open event.

“For what we had and what we did, I thought we did good, considering.”

Her class is an MUSD’s pathway course. Students can gain exposure to a career while still in high school.

In Culinary Arts, for example, Lee’s students are already looking at colleges in their pursuit of careers in the catering and food industries.

Chantel Burton, who hopes to someday become a chef, is looking at Le Cordon Bleu training at the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco and the College of Culinary Arts at Johnson &Wales University.

In her seven years as the Culinary Arts instructor, Lee has sent a good share of her students to some of the prestigious culinary schools in the nation.

She has experience in catering, working a bakery, and taking related courses at Fresno State University and Delta College.

Lee has also been privileged to work with various professional chefs including Guy Fieri of the Food Network.

Her ROP class has gained in popularity in recent years to the point where she’s added another session.

Lee’s first class consists of 33 students from Manteca High and East Union. Twenty-nine students from Sierra High make up the second class.

Students are required to work 15 hours for the year to help cater an event.

They take Lee’s class for various reasons.

“Some are hoping to find work in a restaurant,” she said. “They might want to become a food photographer.

“Of course, we have some who are here just to eat.”

Lee said that proceeds from catering an event and donations goes back to the program.

She had a small group on Wednesday preparing lunch for Superintendent Jason Messer, Hazel Hill of Delta College, and Mick Founts, San Joaquin County Office of Education’s Superintendent of Schools.

The menu was lasagna served with garlic bread and a garden salad.

Lee called it a quick meal to prepare considering students this week were taking finals.

Still, they received kudos from Founts for a job well done.