By Todd Martin
Special to the Daily Herald
A lunch at Central Texas College was a perfect mix of learning and consuming for students and educators.
Fourteen first-year culinary arts students, all enrolled in Killeen Independent School District high schools and taking a CTC food preparation course, prepared and served a meal to school counselors and administrators April 17.
The students spent a little over two hours cooking chicken and vegetables and preparing lasagna, rolls, salad and strawberry shortcake before serving their guests in the CTC Student Center.
With only hands-off guidance from instructors, the high school students served the meal at a long formal table to 24 guests, high school counselors, curriculum leaders and other district administrators.
At the end of the meal, the students appeared in the narrow dining room and received applause and thanks from the satisfied educators.
Instructor Blake Webb said the culinary arts program is a unique one for high school students because they get real-world experience.
During the fall semester, students learned through a patio café format, where they planned menus and served diners in an informal lunch setting at the student center.
The formal meal allowed the students to showcase their learning from the current semester.
It also gave CTC leaders a chance to thank their KISD counterparts for sending students to the college for the two-year dual-credit program.
Tania Fernandez, an Ellison High School junior finishing her first year in culinary arts, said she's excited to take the second-year course and go on to a college culinary arts school.
She said she already wanted to be a pastry chef and in the dual-credit program has been thrilled to meet students of similar interests and to learn multiple aspects of cooking.
"I'm able to cook all the time," she said. "It's the best class ever. I go home and tell my mom what I learned and what I cooked that day."
Killeen High School senior Darcie Washington said students from multiple high schools learned to work together, forming a cohesive team.
"Sometimes we forget we're learning," she said.
Killeen High School junior Samuel Harmon plans to enter the culinary arts field after high school.
"There's a lot of hands-on learning. We apply what we learn in a professional environment," he said. He said he feels inspired to work and learn alongside peers who are similarly passionate about the cooking craft.
There are 16 Killeen ISD students in the first-year course at the college and another 12 in the second year of the program.
Those who complete the two years earn a restaurant skills certification, which is a nationally recognized status.