ANDREWS Andrews High School offers a revitalized culinary program with some of the latest equipment allowing students to learn the ins and outs of food preparation.
Baleigh Pugh and Jennifer Leatherwood teach the electives. Together they have about 265 students.
“There are four different types of courses that feed into this program. It starts with the principles of hotel management, introduction to cooking, culinary arts, and then advanced cooking,” Pugh said.
She added that there are certain grades and prerequisites that students must meet.
“To be able to learn about cooking, they have to take (a) course in hotel management. After that, they are able to progress through an introduction to cooking, cooking, and then advancements,” Pugh said.
Initially, students must go through security and sanitation.
The courses are stepped so that you cannot take one without the other.
Izabella Montoya, 16, and Jose Castillo, 17, are having fun so far. Montoya is in introductory cooking and Castillo is in advanced cooking.
“I’ve always been into cooking and baking and do it as a hobby, so I just wanted to try out the new culinary program, especially since they’ve updated the kitchen so we have more ‘opportunities,’ Montoya said.
She likes to make pumpkin spice rolls.
Castillo said he loves to cook and plans to become a chef. So he thought that would be a good way to do it. He likes to make steaks.
“It’s a great program and the kitchen, the school has done a very good job of building it. It’s really good,” Montoya said.
“I feel like we’re going to be able to do a lot in there,” Castillo added.
Pugh said she thinks interest in cooking is increasing partly because of social media.
“I think it helps. I think kids are getting more and more interested in cooking and baking and decorating. I think they’re just excited to be able to do that, on top of being in this kitchen,” Pugh said.
The kitchen is stocked with all sorts of state-of-the-art equipment – stoves, no-heat steamers, deep fryers, convection ovens, hot boxes, two industrial meat slicers and industrial blenders, plus a bunch of little food processors.
Leatherwood taught sixth grade math for 10 years, and she was ready for a change when she switched to cooking.
“It’s been an adjustment, but it’s a lot of fun,” Leatherwood said.
By the end of August, Pugh was expecting pots and pans, baking sheets, various kitchen utensils, cake decorating tools and cutting boards.
“…It’s my plan is to help them, first, to be able to prepare themselves to eat, but then to be able, if they choose to enter the food industry, that they can have confidence in the work they’re producing, as well as enjoying it,” Pugh said.
Andrews High School principal John Carranco said the culinary program was added to enhance the overall career and technical curriculum.
Andrews’ program started four or five years ago with a few introductory classes and has now grown to include two full-time teachers.
The equipment is some of the newest you will find in any district.
“When our students leave here and someone wants to pursue a career in the culinary arts, we give them access to exceptional facilities. I think it will pay huge dividends going forward,” Carranco said.
A Levelland native, Pugh went to South Plains College for two years and finished at Texas Tech University where she earned a bachelor’s degree in family education and consumer science.
“My family is full of educators, so it’s in my blood. I have a love for teaching and just being around students. They are truly amazing,” Pugh said.
Growing up, Levelland competed against Andrews and she knew she wanted to be a part of something with that great rigor.
She added that Andrews’ students are amazing.
“It’s very similar (to) what I grew up with. … Andrews is its own little community and everyone is very supportive. Everyone is very loving and they care about the school; they care kids. Overall, it’s an amazing place. I’m super lucky to be here,” Pugh said.