Students at three Wilson County high schools are learning food skills, and one – Wilson Central High School — has students working in the school’s café, Central Sizzle Café.

Wilson Central culinary arts teacher Nicole Roning said the culinary program has been offered at the school since 2002. Roning has been involved in the arts for 18 years.

The students learn how to work in a commercial kitchen, including culinary arts skills, baking techniques, restaurant management and interpersonal skills, Roning said. There are four levels of classes which include freshmen through seniors.

There are typically between 250 and 350 students in the program.

“This year is different due to COVID we are unable to see students as much or do events with them,” Roning said. “So far, we have focused on working in the kitchen, working our café, Central Sizzle, and starting to work on competition team practices.”

Central Sizzle Café serves breakfast Tuesday through Friday at the school.

Lebanon High School

LHS culinary arts instructor Lindsay Morgan said the program has been at the school more than 20 years. She has been a LHS instructor for 17 years. She said she has been involved in the “food service industry for most of my life. I began working in restaurants at the age of 15.

This year, she said there are more than 400 students enrolled in the LHS program.

“In my class, I focus on skills need to survive in today’s work force,” she said. “Professionalism, ethics, and 21st Century skills are my focus. I know that not all 400 students will pursue a career in the food service industry, but I would like to instill in them a since of work ethic. 

“If you can work hard and be dependable, you can succeed in any field. Of course, we teach students how to cook.”

She said there are four years of classes. The LHS students operate a full-service restaurant. They are able to learn not only cooking, serving, and cleaning but also inventory, cost control, sustainability and training, she said.

“This year has been very challenging, but students have accomplished some great things,” she said. “We had 23 students pass their National Servsafe Manager Test. This is a huge accomplishment.  This test is written by the National Restaurant Association and is the same test I take, and restaurant managers take, all over the country.”

The program will soon have a new, virtual cooking club. Morgan said that she and the school’s other culinary teachers Kyia Faison and Julien Hicks, are planning to start an online club after school.

“The three instructors here come from different culinary backgrounds and we know the students would benefit from seeing all three styles,” Morgan said.

Green Hill High School

The program at GHHS is new because the school opened in August, but instructor Jeremy Jernigan said he and the students are “working on building our program from the ground up. We have been very fortunate to have one of the best culinary kitchens in the state. Ms. Abby Bohannon and I are super excited to bring this program to this area of the county which is very needed.”

Jernigan said he took culinary classes at Wilson Central and also worked as a culinary instructor.

Between the two culinary teachers at Green Hill, the program has roughly 300 students in its program “which is amazing for a first-year program. In our program, our goal is our students will leave with a skill they can use forever.”

In the first year of the course, the students learn skills like basic knife cuts, food safety and simple recipe conversions. Jernigan said that in the upper-level courses students will learn about cakes, advertising, and many other management skills.

“If a student comes to use as a freshman, they can take culinary arts every year and even earn industry certificates,” Jernigan said.

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