One part of what the students do is run the Ivy Gallery -- a full service restaurant -- which is housed at Area 30.
One entree is served on the days the restaurant is open, and that entree is chosen by the students.
"The kids develop the menu, Birt said. "What we prepare depends on what we have here ... it could be any kind of a sandwich from pork loin to chicken breast."
The students then prep the food, cook it, prepare it for serving and serve it to Ivy Gallery patrons.
"I'd say they do 99 percent of the work," Birt said.
The days Ivy Gallery is open depend on when students -- who come from six area schools -- will be there to staff it.
"We will serve again in November," Birt said. "Plus we have groups come in. We usually serve Wednesdays, Thursdays or Fridays, but the schools really determine how often.
"We don't need to do it every day for the students to practice their skills, so it is a learning activity for them for what we have learned during the week."
Meals at Ivy Gallery cost $10. Proceeds go back into the program for supplies, field trips and competitions.
The students do many other food-related activities outside Ivy Gallery.
"We will be doing a wedding cake and cupcakes next week for a lady here at school."
The students explore many areas of the food industry.
"When they come in, they all want to be Emeril Lagasse or Ace of Cakes," Birt said. "What we do here is study all the other opportunities ... things like apparel and food photography."
Currently, Birt has 18 students, some in the morning session and some in the afternoon session.
"Those 18 are plenty," she said. "You don't want too many with flames and knives and everything."
Historically more boys than girls have taken her class, but right now there are more girls.
"It takes a lot of planning working with teens," Birt said. "Something you and I could do every day in an hour seems to take twice as long, as they are developing and learning. But I love my job and I love what I do. I want to encourage more students to give culinary arts a try. If they have a passion for food, this is where to start."
To request a seat for Ivy Gallery, call Birt at 653-3515 or e-mail email@example.com