The day began as usual in the Scarlet Oaks Culinary Arts kitchens – with an inspection. Students lined up as instructors Chef Dan Knecht and Chef Chris Johnson examined the students’ hands and uniforms to ensure that they were ready to work.
Two other inspectors were there as well. Chef Don Antinore and Chef Richard Ghiselli of the American Culinary Federation (ACF) stood in the background and noted the instructors’ work. The two visiting chefs were at Scarlet Oaks to determine whether the Culinary Arts program would receive ACF certification for another three years.
“We look at the curriculum, the kitchens, the instructors – every aspect of the program,” said Antinore. “We look for interaction, both intellectual and hands-on, between the instructor and students. And we look for ways that the instructors go beyond the curriculum. For instance, not many schools have a daily military-style inspection like this – and it’s so necessary, because it’s part of the ServSafe certification the students earn to work in a commercial kitchen.”
Soon the two chefs moved to the background and students gathered ingredients, took out their knives, lined up pans and utensils, and began the day’s lesson.
Seniors chopped vegetables and prepared risotto, dividing their time between the instructor, their workstations, and video screens which showed a demonstration of proper techniques. Juniors gathered in a second kitchen to measure flour and other ingredients for pie crusts.
Throughout the lesson, both Knecht and Johnson gave instructions that reminded students they weren’t just cooking; they were learning to become professional chefs. “Remember to make the best use of your time,” said Johnson. “Clean as you go.” At the other end of the room, Knecht pulled his students together for an impromptu lesson on the most economical methods for keeping seasonings at their workstations.
Meanwhile, the ACF inspectors watched, listened and made notes. Then they left, but not without a bit of advice for the students. “I see your enthusiasm,” Chef Antinore told the students. “You chose this program, and it’s obvious that you love what you do. So, every day, give it your very best. And eat!”