CCHS culinary students will prepare a seven-course meal featuring local produce as part of the second annual Fall Harvest Celebration

by: BILL MINTIENS/SPECIAL TO THE CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Culinary students Amy Desjardins (LEFT) and Megan Allen (RIGHT) stand next to Culinary Arts teacher Macy Hagensee (CENTER).

The Culinary Arts program at Crook County High School (CCHS) is hosting their second annual Fall Harvest Celebration on Friday, Nov. 1, starting at 5:45 p.m., in the Arts room at the school.

Prepared and served entirely by culinary arts students, the public is being invited to enjoy a sit-down, seven-course, fine-dining experience. Students will be cooking and preparing the meal as well as serving guests.

Macy Hagensee, Culinary Arts teacher, feels this is a wonderful experience for his students.

“This event is where the tire hits the road. My students learn more in that one day (of preparation) than they do all year in the classroom,” he said.

The majority of the food items incorporated into the meal will come from local producers, most within a 50-mile radius of Crook County.

“This is truly a ‘farm-to-fork’ dinner. Cheese is being provided by Cada Dia Cheese, produce from The Last Stand Farm, dairy products from Windy Acres Dairy Farm, pork from The Great American Egg, and vegetables from The Land Lab (managed by Crook County Future Farmers of America alumni),” said Hagensee.

One of two fundraisers the program hosts each school year, the event provides an opportunity for the culinary students to utilize the knowledge and skills they’ve acquired in a pressure-packed restaurant environment.

Amy Desjardins, a senior at CCHS, has been involved with the program for several years, both in the classroom and on the program’s competition team. She views the event from both a student’s and community perspective.

“It really gives you a feel for the culinary industry because you’re on your feet all day, you’re cooking, and you’re serving. And it’s a way for the community to try fine dining,” she said.

Megan Allen is a sophomore at CCHS and, along with Desjardins, is helping to organize and plan the event. She knows first-hand the pressure associated with an event like this.

“This is my first year in the kitchen,” said Allen. “Last year, I was a hostess, and you can really feel the intensity of getting everything ready.”

The Culinary Arts program is not inexpensive to operate. Food and restaurant supplies are the largest expenses. Funding is supplied partially by CCHS, as well as through a student fee, but fundraisers are still necessary to maintain the program throughout the school year.

“We host two dinners each year, the Fall Harvest Celebration and the Spring Forward Celebration. It’s a chance for us to showcase our talents and product to both parents and the community,” said Hagensee.

The Culinary Arts program also takes their talents out into the community. The students cater lunch for Facebook personnel eight times each year, prepare Thanksgiving dinner for the Crook County Kid's Club, and bake cookies for the St. Charles Hospice program.

A component of the Career and Technical Education curriculum at CCHS, the culinary arts program is described on its Facebook page as “a collection of culinary classes and young Epicureans focused and dedicated to the promotion of good food, good nutrition and the lifelong pursuit and curiosity of all things culinary.”

The program has propelled a number of students into advanced education in the culinary arts. Several have graduated from CCHS and continued their culinary education at the Cascade Culinary Institute at Central Oregon Community College, the Oregon Coast Culinary Institute, and Worthy Brewing in Bend.

“My goal is to make this program as respected as the ROTC (Reserve Officers Training Corps) program, the volleyball program, and the Ag (agriculture) program. I want it to be a signature of CCHS,” said Hagensee.

He added that he is particularly pleased that higher education institutions recognize the value of his program.

“Culinary careers are another option that students can consider, especially since our culinary classes are accepted as electives throughout the state for college credit.”

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