With breakfast being the most important meal of the day, a dozen special-needs New Rochelle High School students worked for over two hours Wednesday morning chopping, slicing and dicing their way to a scrumptious meal to serve their parents and other guests who came to celebrate the culmination of their culinary training.
For some students, this is their second year in the program, and as proud parents looked on, the students showed off their skills and the progress they have made during their time spent in the kitchen of , working side by side with two professional chefs.
The school district and Don Coqui Chefs @ Work collaborated on a community-based work-study experience for students interested in the culinary arts. The transition program is for students with intellectual or developmental disabilities who are graduating from high school.
Director of Special Education Yvette Goorevitch was on hand and could not believe what she was seeing.
“It’s amazing! These kids may have difficulties in some areas but have truly excelled in this program,” she said, after which she went to check out another student’s chopping skills.
The students have been coming to the restaurant three days a week all school year not only to learn how to work in the kitchen, but also gather other life skills that will prepare them for what lies ahead after they graduate.
“It's a compliment to the people that want to support kids and who have a real notion and obligation to educate every child,” said Superintendent of Schools Richard Organisciak, who looked on as the students put the finishing touches on the morning’s breakfast.
Everything from fresh fruit to French toast, scrambled eggs, diced potatoes, freshly cut salad, bacon and sausage were served to dozens of family, educators and community members who attended the breakfast.
Joe Marciano’s daughter Brianna was just one of the talented student-chefs, and he recalled her always having an interest in cooking.
“Brianna would not only make a sandwich at a young age, but also enjoys cooking with us at home, especially now that she has had this experience,” he said, joking that “she always has had a big interest in eating and now she’s cooking too!”
Another benefit of the culinary program is that the students got to learn about all sorts of different foods, something Teaching Assistant Rashiem Young said was going to be a life-long benefit.
“Everyday these students make a salad and they see the benefit of preparing their own meals which will serve them well as they get older,” remarked Young who has worked with the students all year long and has witnessed their growth first hand.
Don Coqui’s Culinary Arts Program uses intensive teaching methods to raise the student’s cooking abilities significantly over the course of a year.
Students work with the chef to learn nutrition, menu selection, ingredient and equipment identification, food preparation, culinary techniques, knife skills and proper food handling.