Surry Central Culinary Lab Grand Opening and Ribbon Cutting
Thursday, November 15, 2018, was a monumental celebration of the official grand opening and ribbon cutting for the Surry Central High School Culinary Lab. The culinary lab has been years in the making, according to Dr. Jill Reinhardt, Assistant Superintendent for Surry County Schools, and Mrs. Sabrina Wilmoth, Family and Consumer Science teacher at Surry Central.
The program began with a welcome and acknowledgment of distinguished guests by Mrs. Celia Hodges, the principal of Surry Central High School, who presided over the program. The invocation was given by Mr. Chase Holt, a sophomore culinary student, followed by remarks from Mr. Earlie Coe, Surry Board of Education member. Mr. Coe explained, “I have had the good fortune to be with this group every step of the way and have witnessed first hand the progress that has transpired. I know you will all be as proud as I am of the commercial kitchen you are going to see after this program. The Surry County Board of Education prides itself on personalized learning and we have been at the forefront of hands-on learning for some time now. We are extremely proud of what Mrs. Wilmoth and her students will do going forward.”
Mrs. Wilmoth shared the importance of the occasion by providing insight into the program and its beginnings. Mrs. Wilmoth shared, “Our students now have the opportunity to work and learn in a true commercial kitchen. They are planning, preparing, and serving full meals along with upscale desserts. They are gaining skills, knowledge, and work experience that is needed to fill job openings. They are also developing and building portfolios for college applications, job interviews, and paid internships.” Mrs. Wilmoth further elaborated, “The road to get to where we are today has been filled with lots of bumps and curves. It has been hard but we never second-guessed the purpose and we know that the commercial culinary lab will yield a positive outcome for our students and our community.”
Juniors, Miss Marleny Nolasco and Miss Mamie Smith reflected on their past experiences in their old foods lab. Miss Smith remarked, “Over the past two years, we accomplished many things despite the fact that we were trying to run a commercial catering business out of a residential lab.” “At times we had multiple things to bake, but only two of the ovens had a convection setting, and even then, they could only hold two pans each,” added Miss Nolasco. Certainly, with their new commercial kitchen, this won’t be a problem.
Dr. Jill Reinhardt, Assistant Superintendent of Surry County Schools relayed the vision of this project since it was first envisioned. “I remember having conversations about the possibilities for our county if students had the opportunity to learn in a lab that was well-equipped and state-of-the-art. Those conversations were the beginning of the vision, the possibilities of what could be in the future. . . .From here, the vision only gets stronger. These students will, along with Sabrina Wilmoth, run this enterprise program with pride and honor. I will put these guys up against anybody in the state! I am honored to be a part of this fine work and see this dream become a reality,” shared Dr. Reinhardt.
The present for the culinary students is like a dream come true. Miss Yeni Duran, a junior, and Miss Zoraida Palacios, a senior, wanted everyone to understand why the culinary lab means so much to students. “We are so excited, honored, and privileged to be part of the first group of students to work in the brand new state-of-the-art commercial kitchen. Our new commercial kitchen helps us gain training and exposure to the equipment and tools used in the culinary profession,” commented Miss Duran. Miss Palacios conveyed, “Students here at Surry Central are offered a variety of advanced studies options to help us choose a career pathway. With the Culinary Advanced Studies Program, we have been given the opportunity to gain hands-on experience in a commercial kitchen.” It was obvious from all of the student presenters how much joy and pride they take in their new learning space.
Superintendent of Surry County Schools, Dr. Travis L. Reeves stated, “Hanover Research has shared research with us that just three occupations in Surry County can expect growth at or equal to 25 percent between 2014 and 2024; two of which are in hospitality and tourism. That is one of the reasons this culinary lab is so important. Our Board of Education has been committed to providing the funding to create relevant learning opportunities for students. These students are gaining relevant skills that have implications for lots of businesses and industries, and they will be equipped to market themselves and their skill sets when competing for jobs.” Furthermore, Dr. Reeves shared, “An unknown author wrote, ‘Eating is a necessity but cooking is an art.’ You will see shortly how art and creativity come together in the form of good food, great service, and hospitality.”
After the program, all in attendance walked down the hall to the culinary lab where the ribbon cutting took place. Then in the culinary lab, guests were served a menu consisting of heavy hors-d'oeuvres and desserts prepared by and served by culinary students dressed in their tuxedo uniforms. Additionally, Miss Nolasco and Miss Smith donned in name tags, Ask Me: Culinary Expert, prepared turkey cupcakes using their new camera, which enables the chef to prepare items and everyone else can see it visually on a large flat screen television. Mrs. Wilmoth remarked, “This is one of the best additions. I can demonstrate something, and the whole class can see what I’m doing. It has really been beneficial with instruction.” The students’ pride and exemplary service in their new culinary kitchen was like entering a new world of possibilities.