Home economics? It's a distant memory compared to today’s culinary arts classes. Just take a look at the kitchen in Wilmer-Hutchins High School, home of some award-winning students.
It’s busy in the Wilmer-Hutchins kitchen. Culinary students are moving cookies, cupcakes and brownies they’ve baked into the hall for an annual fundraiser.
“All the batters and doughs and icings were made by every one of my class periods throughout this past week,” says Adam Bazaldua, culinary instructor for 140 kids in this program. “And we get one day per year where the Dallas ISD lets us sell to students to compete with sales from the cafeteria. That’s why we can’t do it, usually.”
And, except for this one day, Bazaldua doesn’t usually concentrate on sweet treats.
“These kids live in a food desert,” he explains. “They have to go 10-plus miles to get fresh produce anywhere. That’s crazy. My biggest objective to this program is not only for them to have healthy options, but I think it’s really cool for young kids to get their wheels turning.”
So he’s inspired some students, like senior Joseph Giroux, to create nutritious and fun foods that might, in turn, inspire youngsters. Preparing them should require no supervision, nothing sharper than a butter knife, nor hotter than a microwave.
Joseph’s smiley sandwich was good enough to win a spot in a DISD cookbook.
“It looks like a clown face,” Joseph says. “It has a bagel with provolone cheese on top and we have a cherry tomato in the middle for the nose. And we have two pickles for the eyes and mustard for the mouth.”
Freshman Jeremy Tezano was part of Wilmer-Hutchins’ team that won a contest for an appetizer prepared for 160 people.
“You know I have to make sure what I present is the best,” Tezano says. “Competition was awesome. Winning first place was just feeling like the best thing in the world. It was a cheesy wild mushroom toast with a mascarpone salad and cheese on top.”
He hadn't made this dish before. In fact, Tezano had never even heard of it.
Bazaldua’s mission is to teach his kids professional kitchen secrets he learned as a chef. He had his own restaurant in Dallas and also worked with Stephen Pyles and Kent Rathbun. He passes on tips, like one for a certain type of sealed-cooking.
“The kids got to learn sous-vide,” Bazaldua says, “and a modern cooking technique, molecular gastronomy. We’re cooking the eggs in the shell and when we crack them they’re a perfectly poached egg.”
Bazaldua left the professional kitchen life wanting a more normal one now he has a baby. So far in his first year, teaching is a good fit.
“I thought about how much time and money I could have saved had that program been available to me in high school,” Bazaldua says. “Because the coolest part is actually getting to work in a kitchen that culinary students are going out to compete for in a job.”
Bazaldua plans to spend some bake sale money to buy more gadgets only found in professional kitchens. He also dreams of launching a farmers market in the high school parking lot.