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Let’s eat! This isn’t your parents’ home ec class

Specialized culinary class at St. Benedict Secondary prepares students for the future of food  

The chef’s plate challenge is a familiar competition to the students in Mr. Sipos’ food classes at St. Benedict Secondary School.

The challenge is to give students a table of eclectic ingredients that they need to formulate into a dish, or masterpiece of sorts, in order to win over staff judges.

“I feel it is a great way for kids to experience cooking in an authentic way. It’s like being home and opening up the fridge and looking for what you can make to ease your hunger pangs,” teacher Mike Sipos said.

Sipos is no stranger to food and competition. In 2014, the science teacher and self-proclaimed foodie was the 2015 Cook for Me Sudbury champion.

“Growing up in a Hungarian household, I learned very early on that food waste was not an option. Creating something out of nothing is a challenge I was always willing to embrace," he said.

A couple years later, Sipos started teaching food classes at St. Benedict and then a Specialist High Skills Major program in Hospitality and Tourism was born.

These government-regulated high skills major programs offer high school students a bundle of credits with the purpose of getting industry certifications, and cooperative education placements ahead of time so they can begin to think about the future after high school.  

The students also graduate with a red seal on their diploma.

There are three hospitality programs in the Greater Sudbury area with one at Espanola High school and another based at  École secondaire Hanmer.

The Grade 9 students at St. Benedict are a few years off from making any formal decisions about what they want to pursue in their post secondary years.

But they certainly have food on their mind.  

The chef’s plate competition for May includes one egg and one potato, along with ham, some lettuce, a slice of onion, pepperoni, butter, basic spices and a bay leaf. There was also the addition of one single-portion-sized apple sauce container. Another class on this day gets the benefit of sliced ham as well.

The three groups worked feverishly to impress their judge, the always hungry Outdoor Education teacher Pat Morris.  

One group used the chef’s table to prepare an omelette, a hash brown mix and a side of salad with apple vinaigrette along with the bay leaves, some oregano and paprika.

The middle group made a jambalaya style dish all in one pan.  

The third group opted for an omelette with oven-baked fries stacked like a campfire and salad with apple vinagairette.

In the end, it was the stacked campfire style home fries dish from the third group that caught the attention of the judge. The only complaint was that the fries could have used more time in the oven.  

The SHSM Hospitality program is ensuring kids explore the kitchen and use equipment safely.  It also sought national recognition in the last year.  

Late last spring, after striking gold at the Skills Ontario culinary competition, student Veronica Zulich went on to take a silver at the national competition.  

Her final dish was crispy chicken on a rice pilaf topped with vegetables.  

Zulich is the only eligible graduate of the program this year and she will be attending George Brown College for Culinary in the fall.  

There is another benefit for local students in Sudbury to think about food for the future.  After a ten year hiatus, Cambrian will be bringing back its Hospitality program in the fall.  

Full Disclosure- I work at St. Benedict but these SHSM Hospitality programs really are out of this world.

Anastasia Rioux is a writer in Greater Sudbury. Let’s Eat! is made possible by our Community Leader’s Program.