Chefs teach students for the day at Severn school

Chefs teach students for the day at Severn school
Students (left to right) Michael Helms, Myra Coffield and Natalya Matos taste the desserts they helped make with guidance from Chef Paul Properi of the Culinary Institute of America. He and other chefs from the CIA visited the Anne Arundel county Center of Applied Technology North to work with students in the foodservice and hospitality programs. (Barbara Haddock Taylor, Baltimore Sun)

The sizzle echoed through the halls of the Center of Applied Technology North in Severn, emanating from the school's culinary arts baking and pastry lab, where it was joined by a tempting aroma. Normally, a restaurant kitchen would be responsible for such sounds and smells, but this day it was students and the Culinary Institute of America.

Former staff from the Culinary Institute of America were instructing students as part of "Teaching with the CIA," a day of culinary education for Washington-area students interested in careers in the food service and hospitality industry.

The program has been held for the past five years at the Severn career and technology center, which serves seven Anne Arundel County high schools and one alternative high school.

About 70 students took part Tuesday in the program, which was led by former CIA faculty members, including Paul Prosperi, a former pastry chef and manager at the Essex House in New York; Frans Hagen, former maitre d' of the hotel division of Holland America Cruise Line; and Arnym Solomon, former vice president of Darden Restaurants, whose brands include Red Lobster and Olive Garden.

Dan Schaffhauser, the center's principal, said local businesses also take part, including US Foodservice in Severn and KeyImpact in Odenton.

The students were also guided through the program by center instructor Bruce Davis, a 1972 CIA graduate. Back then, he said, some could make it in the food business with vocational diplomas or associate's degrees.

"Today, you have to almost get a bachelor's degree to be successful in the business," Davis said. "They have to be able to [succeed] on paper as well as with a knife at a station."

The chefs guided the students through cooking demonstrations. Hagen's dishes included nasi goreng, a Southeast Asia fried rice dish with shrimp, egg, bean sprouts, cilantro and cubed ham. Solomon prepared turmeric-infused scallop soup, a dish with ingredients that included fish stock, ground white pepper and whipping cream. For dessert, Prosperi prepared chocolate meringue shell with diplomat cream.

Some students said that they've tried similar dishes at home, with mixed results. "I tried to make pastry creme, but it kind of broke; it wasn't good," said Monica Sin. "But this is perfect; it's smooth and awesome."

Most of the students said their interest in the food industry was piqued by television shows like "Top Chef," "Cake Boss" and "Cupcake Wars." The competition in those shows, they say, has helped them look at what goes on in the kitchen in a different light and has spurred an interest in the food industry.

"I like the competition aspect [of food shows] and the pressure in having to present your best product," said Jessica Lincoln. She said she hopes to work on a cruise ship or open her own business. The "Teaching with the CIA" program, she says, has exposed her to the behind-the-scenes workings in the industry. "I've really been motivated in doing all the production," she said.

Chris Bussey, a large offensive lineman for the Old Mill High football team, has spent a lot of time in his family's kitchen and took a few lessons from his grandmother. He hopes to open his own restaurant some day, and he shares his passion for cooking with other members of the football team.

"My coaches think it's very interesting that a tough guy on the football field can have a soft side in the kitchen," said Bussey.

CATN instructor Peter Akerboom said that years ago, students interested in the food service industry were directed toward vocational education. Nowadays, he says, "I'll get the overachievers, the National Honor Society students, all the way down to the students that are struggling. They come from all sorts of backgrounds and have all sorts of baggage, but once they get in here, they have the same desire and the same passion."

Schaffhauser said that some students who take part in the program tell him they simply enjoy cooking and ultimately venture into other fields. "But the majority," he added, "are here because they want to take that to the next level."