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Area 30's Culinary Arts students have a full plate

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Eminence High School junior Robert Kelly, a student in Mary Birt's Culinary Arts and Restaurant Management program at Area 30 Career Center, prepares a sandwich to serve at the school's Ivy Gallery restaurant.
By the time students in Mary Birt's Culinary Arts and Restaurant Management course at Area 30 Career Center are done with the program, they have experienced every facet of the food service industry.

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 mbirt@area30.k12.in.us

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Great story! If you have never eaten at the Ivy Gallery, you are missing a real treat! It is a real joy to see what these kids are learning and how the meal is presented. You couldn't get anything better in a fine dining restaurant. Keep up the good work Mary Ann and your staff of future Emeril's!

-- Posted by interested party on Tue, Oct 7, 2008, at 7:05 AM

Just in case anyone wants to know. Putnamville Correctional Facility also has a Culinary Arts program which has more than 18 students and they are felons with knives and fire and the instructor keep control of the offenders. Ms. Penny Clevenger does wonders with these offenders. Many of the offenders upon release get positions at many popular restaurants and never return to the prison system again.

Hooray for Penny Clevenger. Also Hooray for Area 30.

-- Posted by Taxpayer5253 on Tue, Oct 7, 2008, at 8:11 AM

This is why companies don't invest in west central Indiana. Our kids need to be learning advanced math and science. Instead they learn how to move up from their current job making sandwiches at Burger King to making sandwiches at Walden Inn.

-- Posted by tackleberry65 on Wed, Oct 8, 2008, at 11:20 AM

Culinary arts is a real profession. This is such a positive story it seems a shame to ruin it with small minded remarks.

-- Posted by citizenoftheworld on Fri, Oct 10, 2008, at 8:28 AM

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