“It totally changed my outlook,” exclaimed Elizabeth Krigbaum about the culinary arts program offered at Payson High School as she dished out food for this week at the program’s big fund-raiser — a tribute to the tastes of historic Route 66.
Krigbaum, a local high school and culinary student, explained that she first took the culinary class just to “fill” a slot, but soon came to love cooking. She felt inspired by the interactive teaching style and the opportunity to learn a new skill.
Primarily, Krigbaum’s newfound passion helped her to escape past hardships and troubling experiences.
Like other students in the culinary program, Krigbaum now plans to attend culinary school with the eventual goal of becoming a chef.
The Route 66-themed buffet fund-raiser on Tuesday at Julia Randall Elementary School featured the unique tastes of the students in the culinary arts program.
Their annual fund-raiser helps to support this class ensure it survives for future students while providing a fun evening for the people of Rim Country. Like most of the extracurricular programs in the district, the culinary arts program relies heavily on donations and fund-raisers to continue.
Local businesses made the fund-raiser possible with the donations. Gerardo’s Firewood Café provided lots of the food and inspiration, along with food donations by Chili’s Restaurant. Walmart and Safeway also participated, so that almost all of the money paid by the diners could go to support the program.
“It’s a good process to see an idea all the way through to making it happen,” expounded Halli Kinnick, a teacher at PHS, on the advantages of the culinary program.
She said students learn skills like leadership, creativity, commitment and confidence.
The culinary arts program is an interactive experience which helps students from all backgrounds, and most importantly, it offers teens a structured, stable and healthy environment.
The driving force behind the culinary program is Devon Wells, a local PHS teacher and director of the culinary class for more than seven years.
Wells provides the spirit of the class and constant help for the students. Known for her unfailing cheerfulness, Wells uses an interactive teaching method that mentors and encourages students.
Krigbaum said Wells had had an impact on her interests, skills and ability to improve.
Likewise, the culinary program offers a unique environment for students to develop their creativity. Every annual fund-raiser has a theme fashioned and prepared by the students.
This year’s theme centered on restaurants from along Route 66. The students found recipes and modeled their own booth after the real-world restaurant they chose.
This fund-raiser featured a variety of buffets like The Roadkill Café, The Grill, Pizzeria, Fish N’ Chicks and Desserts.
The mouth-watering selections served came from actual recipes used in their modeled restaurant, Internet finds or family favorites.
One of the biggest hits was an original recipe, “Chiffle,” created by Autumn Parrish, where chicken is dipped into waffle batter and fried.
“It’s great, very creative and the hospitality was wonderful,” observed one of the participants.
Students learned cooking skills like baking, pastries, meats, and the like. They also can now earn a math credit thanks to Kinnick’s supportive role as a math teacher.
The students stage the fund-raiser themselves and start planning in the fall. They do everything from making table decorations to finding the right facility.
“They will graduate being able to go into a restaurant” said Kinnick.
Most importantly, the culinary arts program offers a place for anyone to thrive despite personal issues or hardships.
Parrish, who is also planning to attend culinary school, confirms that this class is a “happy time” that helps teens cope with everyday life.
“It helps to open up a world, even if you’re bad at it, for improvement ... It’s a life-changing opportunity,” explained Krigbaum.
CORN ON THE COB
• 4 ears of corn, husked
• Chili powder
• Wash corn. If not in season, use
frozen corn on the cob.
• Wrap one slice of bacon around
each ear. Sprinkle with chili
powder to taste.
• Wrap corn in aluminum foil and
place over medium heat coals or
medium flame on a gas grill.
• Cook roughly 20-25 minutes.