Culinary Club cooks up fun, service to others

| Posted on TrentonMonitor.com May 17, 2015 |

Emily Spitaleri and Allison Hemsing of the Culinary Club of St. John Vianney High School, Holmdel, peel sweet potatoes for a taco dish. The club attended Young Chef’s Academy, Morganville, to prepare a complete Mexican-themed dinner. Photo courtesy of SJVHS Facebook page

Emily Spitaleri and Allison Hemsing of the Culinary Club of St. John Vianney High School, Holmdel, peel sweet potatoes for a taco dish. The club attended Young Chef’s Academy, Morganville, to prepare a complete Mexican-themed dinner. Photo courtesy of SJVHS Facebook page

By EmmaLee Italia | TrentonMonitor.com Correspondent

Sharing recipes and family cultural cuisine is mainstay for the Culinary Club in St. John Vianney High School, Holmdel, which meets regularly throughout the school year. But once a year, club members don aprons, assemble their utensils and prepare to learn from master chefs during a visit to an area cooking school.

Not only do these students get to have fun and share their love for delicious foods, they also take action to help combat hunger in their communities.

“The club has been around for four years now,” said Michele Langdon, director of student activities. “Twice a month they look at recipe books together, talk about what they make at home.” The students’ various cultural backgrounds provide a kaleidoscope of family-tested recipes.

On April 16, Young Chef’s Academy, Morganville, gave the club members a chance to team up and prepare a full course meal. In the four years since the club began, the students have chosen a variety of cuisines to try, including Italian and Asian. This year they tried their hand at Mexican food.

“I was extremely excited to go back to the Young Chef’s Academy because every time we go there we have a ton of fun,” said club vice president, Victoria Mahoney. “I always seem to learn something new regarding preparing meals of all kinds.”

The course began with head chef Dani Heath explaining the French phrase “misa en place,” which translates to “put everything into place” before beginning cooking. The Mexican-themed menu comprised quick salsa; honey-lime sweet potato, black bean and corn tacos; and traditional Mexican cookies to finish the meal.

“Like the best people do, the club started making dessert first,” Heath said.

Club members learned how to make traditional Mexican cookie dough, incorporating the cinnamon that is used in every Mexican dessert. While the cookies baked, the students worked together chopping, mixing and sautéing.

“I really enjoyed being able to progress in my cooking skills, and learn more about food, culture and how to cook,” said club member, Kristin Perretti. “Not to mention, the food was delicious!”

After receiving recipe cards for all the dishes prepared that day, the students presented Heath and the other chefs with thank-you cards.

“We are always sharing the recipes of the theme of our bake sales,” said senior Annalisa Leite, club president, “whether our grandma’s snickerdoodle cookie recipe for the cookie-themed sale, or the best chocolate icing recipe for the cupcake-themed sale.” The club hosts a number of themed cookie sales throughout the school year.

“The best part of being in the culinary club is that I get the opportunity to connect with my fellow SJVHS students with delicious food,” said Leite “but most importantly to help make a difference.”

A member since her freshman year, Leite said that their main service project involves collecting sandwiches and lunches from the SJV community and delivering them to Mother Teresa Regional School, Atlantic Highlands. From there the food donations are delivered to hungry and homeless in the surrounding area, as well as Newark and New York.

“No one in the United States should be hungry,” said Leite, “and this is our small way of helping to end hunger and help our community.”

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