BELTON — Learning the intricacies of food preparation and presentation is the focus of Belton High School’s culinary arts program, part of the Career and Technical Education department.

As part of the hospitality and tourism section of CTE, the program serves 69 students and is led by Rebecca Alcozer and Amber Coppin.

The classes allow plenty of practical experience in preparing items ranging from appetizers to desserts.

“Salaries start at about $22,000 and for those who become private chefs, the sky is the limit,” said Lori Rockwood, director of Belton’s CTE program. “They do an excellent job of not only preparing the food, but also preparing the atmosphere.”

One of the strong points of the culinary arts program is that upgrades in the kitchen equipment are ensuring students are ready for the workplace, Rockwood said.

The commercial kitchen “was updated about three years ago and the department was able to purchase several items,” she said. “We’re pretty much where we need to be (in terms of equipment), but we could always use more space.

“We’ve had some limitations because of the lack of room.”

School board member Sue Jordan has enjoyed items prepared by students in the program, she said.

“Not only is your food tasty, but it’s also pretty and very well-presented,” Jordan said.

Some of the ideas for foods to be prepared come from websites such as Pinterest, Alcozer and Coppin said. However, in a twist on the preparation, while inspiration comes from the photos of the food, the instructors and students craft their own recipes, Alcozer said.

The program is designed so that each student learns how to do every job associated with food preparation and presentation, which includes menu planning, purchasing and receiving.

Students also visit culinary schools in Austin (Le Cordon Blue or Arts Institute) and Waco (Texas State Technical College), where they can continue their education at the collegiate level.

“I moved here two years ago from Florida,” student Zackary Shriner said. “The culinary program here is fantastic. The one they had (at school in Florida) was nothing compared to this.”

“I’ve learned so much from these wonderful women.”

Alcozer has been with BHS for three years and Coppin for four. They make sure students are comfortable and knowledgeable about aspect of food preparation, Alcozer said.

“It’s very comprehensive, and we make sure students can follow a recipe from start to finish,” she said.

“Working together is also something we focus on. This isn’t a job you can do on your own. You need help, so teamwork is crucial. Also, maintaining sanitary conditions is vital.”

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