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Students discover what's cooking

December 4, 2011
By JOHANNA BOYLE - Journal Ishpeming Bureau ( , The Mining Journal

MARQUETTE - Class for Elizabeth Joseph, 17, a senior at Superior Central, includes lecture and exams.

But it also means buttoning on a white chef's coat, apron and cap and heading into the kitchens at Northern Michigan University's Jacobetti Center, surrounded by ovens, mixers and a whole variety of equipment.

"At home if I'm bored, cooking is what I do," Joseph said. "You can make so many different things with so few ingredients."

Article Photos

For Superior Central senior Elizabeth Joseph, 17, school each day includes a drive into Marquette to attend a career and technical education program focused on teaching the basics of cooking and hospitality management. Here Joseph works with cooking partner Dylan Taylor, 17, left, a Marquette Senior High School student. (Journal photo by Johanna Boyle)

Joseph is one of roughly a dozen students representing four high schools and some homeschool programs taking part in the university's high school career and technical education program, offered through the Marquette-Alger RESA. The students spend several hours each weekday at NMU, learning the basics of cooking, menu planning and sanitation, giving them a jump on helpful life and work experience.

"It gets them excited about good food," said NMU hospitality management professor Chris Kibit. "I love teaching college and university level, but I see the most impact with high schoolers."

Kibit, who started getting interested in food at the age of 16, co-teaches the high school program with fellow professor Brad Pepin. The two chefs split time between in class-lecture and time in the kitchen. Kibit has organized similar programs in schools downstate and began the NMU program last year.

The two-semester program covers foods from baking to entrees to vegetables, as well as an introduction to the hospitality industry and a section on food service sanitation. Students who complete the class leave with a national ServSafe certification, which is a big benefit for those hoping to work in a restaurant.

In addition to earning high school credit through the program, students also earn 10 credits through NMU.

For Joseph, the program is a chance to bridge between cooking at home and cooking professionally.

"It's pretty much been my goal since I was little," she said. "I got it from my grandma because I used to cook with her and bake with her."

Cooking at home gave Joseph the chance to learn the basics of cooking entrees, such as steaks, chicken and barbecue.

"Hopefully I'll get to expand on that," she said.

The class is just finishing its segment on food sanitation and safety before moving into more time in the kitchen.

"The past few weeks we've been doing baking, which I've been enjoying," Joseph said.

For Thanksgiving, each of the high school students got the chance to bake a pie in class, which they then brought home for their families.

In the kitchen, the students are broken up into pairs and given a recipe to complete during the class period, which exposes them to working in a large kitchen, often with NMU hospitality management students, and with different ingredients.

"Here you have a huge kitchen and all the ingredients you need," Joseph said.

That experience, Kibit said, can be used either in the students' own lives or as experience for jobs in the future.

"It's an everyday life skill," he said. "We want you to be comfortable with more than just opening a box or a can."

For Joseph, the course has already made a big difference.

"I came in not really knowing what I was doing," she said. "This has opened me up to doing it a lot more."

Although she's still exploring the different areas of cooking, Joseph said she wanted to spend a few years taking classes at NMU before moving on to working in a restaurant. Her goal is to eventually have her own restaurant.

The first from Superior Central to take part in the program, Joseph said she wanted to encourage other students to try the program.

"I'd tell them to definitely do it because it's a lot of fun," she said.

Students interested in the program can contact their high school guidance counselors, the MARESA office or Kibit himself at

Johanna Boyle can be reached at 906-486-4401. Her email address is



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