Ann Drum and her friends, Candice Whitlock and Makenzie Edwards were all smiles. Their grins rivaled their bright snow-white garbs and the matching chef’s hats perched on their heads.
They were the image of professionalism as they, along with about a dozen similarly garbed professional chef hopefuls, served up their own scrumptious creations to the scores of dignitaries and guests who attended Thursday evening’s unveiling of the new Regional Environmental Studies Center and the ceremonial switching of the solar panels that have been installed in Manteca Unified’s 26 school sites.
The cooks and servers are the students – high school juniors and seniors – enrolled in the Manteca Unified Vocational Academy’s School of Culinary Arts. The real reason behind their presence there was to advertise to the public at large that the student-run and –operated MUVA Café, which opened for business late last year, is now open to all and not just to school district employees.
The bill of fare available for the guests to taste test included an array of personal-size pizza flavors – from vegetarian to pepperoni – and clam chowder served in mini-bread bowls, as well as lemon cupcakes. The informal survey conducted at the scene produced praises for the students’ palate-pleasing creations.
“These are cute little bowls. There’s a lot of clams in it; it’s very good,” critiqued guest Jill Vermeuille whose company donated the furniture – chairs, tables, and lab stools – used to furnish the Gen7 learning center NZEB (net zero energy building) that officially opened the state-of-the-art and environmentally friendly facility, the first of its kind in San Joaquin County.
The pizza that was cooked on site and served piping hot also earned plenty of kudos. Like the clam chowder, the students could hardly keep up with the demand that evening.
“They do a great breakfast and lunch,” Board of Education President Don Scholl said of the food served at the students’ MUVA Café. Since the café opened late last year, he has made it a point to have his breakfast there during his day off from work on Fridays, not only because of the quality of the food but to show his support for the students and the culinary arts program.
The Café is open Monday to Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Students like Ann Drum, a high school senior, are grateful to be in the MUVA Culinary Arts School.
“I’m so excited,” she said as she and her schoolmates ladled up clam chowder into the mini-bread bowls.
“I’ve been visiting culinary schools like the Johnson and Wales University’s (College of Culinary Arts) in Rhode Island,” she said with a big smile.
The charter program, she said, will help her pursue her lifelong dream. “I want to travel and work on cruise ships” as a professional chef, she said.
Since it opened, students in the MUVA School of Culinary Arts have made plenty of strides in terms of job experience. For the 10th anniversary of Weston Ranch School, they made 1,300 special-order cookies. They have also had a number of catering experiences. Their first formal catering event was at the San Joaquin County Office of Education where the 2nd annual Pathways Green School Workshop was held. With the guidance of Chef Bryan Ehrenholm, the students not only prepared the food but also did all the set-up, the serving of the food to the students as well as the teachers and administrators, and finally, the clean-up.
MUVA is Manteca Unified’s first vocational charter school. The programs, whose goal is to make junior and high school students job ready with employable skills and equipped with job certifications that they need to enter the work force right after they receive their diplomas, are tuition-free as though they are attending the traditional high school classes.
The Culinary Arts School was the first offered with the class opening in the 2011-12 school year. In August, opening for the 2012-13 school year was the Industrial Technology and Design School. Next year, the plan is to add a third program, MUVA’s School of Medical Assisting.
The MUVA Café is located in the portable building that used to be Manteca Unified’s administration offices and board room. One section of the portable is now occupied by the Premier Community Credit Union. Next to it is the MUVA Café.
For more information about Manteca Unified Vocational Academy and how to enroll, visit http://musd.net and click on MUVA under the Our Schools head.