Longhorn Culinary Arts Serves Up Tasty Food

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Payson's newest restaurant is Longhorn Culinary Arts. Culinary arts students at Payson High School chose the name and the uniforms. They will create the menus, prepare the food and serve it to their guests.

"Our community surveyed the students to ask them what they wanted to do careerwise, and culinary arts came out second highest in interest."

"We have seven home-style kitchens and one commercial kitchen," said family and consumer science instructor Devon Wells.

Learning how to work together in a kitchen was the first thing the seven young men and 19 young women in Wells' class needed to learn -- even though 11 of her students are all ready working in Payson restaurants.

"They had to do a team activity where they tied their hands and created banana splits," Wells said. "It was just a real silly fun thing to teach them teamwork and communication."

Students rotate through kitchen duties -- from executive chef to servers -- so that no one gets stuck washing dishes all the time.

Bonnie Clayton said she loves all kinds of food, but prefers cooking main dishes.

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They made them, now senior Payson High School students Noel Hernandez, Stephen "Noodle" Garré and Patrick Jansen must figure out how to eat them.

"I wanted to learn the basics before I have to head off to college and get hit with a lot of stuff."

She plans to go to Scottsdale Culinary Institute after graduating from high school and maybe one day open her own restaurant.

Stephen "Noodle" Garré looks forward to being a chef. He cooks at home for his mom, dad and little brother. His favorite thing to cook is dessert.

"I don't have to rush," he said. "There isn't a certain time when it has to be done so I can just relax and do whatever I want to do with it."

Typically the school pays for the costs of the class, but since this is the first year of the program the outlay will be more.

"One of our big purchases for this type of program is to have the chef outfit so customers see them being real chefs."

Gerardo Moceri, owner of Cucina Paradiso, is donating a black chef coat to each student.

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Juniors Kenny Plunkett and Danny Neff and Sophomore Mark Taylor figure out how to eat ice cream with their hands tied.

The Northern Arizona Vocational Institute of Technology gave the district $4,500 to get the culinary arts program started.

"One of my biggest concerns is to have enough money to keep them cooking year around," Wells said. "So part of what we are trying to do is raise money."

The class voted to make and sell cookie bouquets. The students are promoting their sale on campus and through the district website at www.pusd.k12.az.us/ article.php?art=55.

Students need at least a three-day lead time to make the bouquets, which include balloons and three kinds of cookies.

Over the next eight months students will learn healthy nutrition concepts. They will learn to use all the commercial equipment, including grills, dishwashers, proof boxes, deep fat fryer, and convection oven, and how to properly sanitize the stainless steel food preparation areas.

The year will culminate with a term paper: A business plan for a restaurant. The students have to chose a site, pick recipes, and figure out how the restaurant will be financed.

"We would like their business plan to have a couple of recipes that they have personally created," Wells said.

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