Culinary Program Serves Up a Full Plate of Experience


The smell of spices and fresh ingredients waft through the air. Students run around, tossing chopped vegetables into pots and coating dry ingredients with sauces made from scratch. There is determined yelling and lots of movement as students attempt to finish cooking their meal before the end of the period.  It’s like standing in the middle of a bustling city, where everyone is rushing in different directions to get to where they need to be. 

The forty minutes they were given to finish cooking fly by, and soon, everyone is scrambling to get their final product on the presentation table. Glistening bowls of soup topped with a sprinkle of chopped vegetables sit on the table like trophies in a trophy case. Relieved and tired smiles are stuck on everyone’s faces, and people huddle together, admiring their hard work. This is the environment and community that is formed in the culinary room. 

The Francis Lewis Culinary program is a program that was just introduced to the school this year. The program is in its earliest stages of development, but what is known so far shows that there is a promising and bright future ahead for students participating in it. In the first year of the program, students are taught basic cooking skills but in a fun and experimental way.

“This year we made pizza, gave them a ramen challenge, and also did food truck wars, which is a term project where we set the students up in groups, and they get to create their own food truck,” Chef Neil said.

Currently, culinary classes take place in room 313, which was originally a science laboratory on the third floor.  

“The major plan is obviously moving into our actual culinary kitchen in the annex next year,” Chef Neil said. “There, we’ll have a large greenhouse and we’ll be providing food to the culinary program. We also want to open a student-run restaurant. Students will be able to work, and can gain knowledge on how to operate a restaurant and the work that goes into it, as well as creating food for the rest of the school.” 

Chef Neil is passionate about helping students improve their skills sets in the classroom.

“I just realized that helping teach and empower students in the classroom and beyond is something very important and is lacking in society right now,” Chef Neil added.

Freshman Derek Young, who is in his first year in the Culinary program, discussed how the class is benefitting him and his peers.

“Yes, it is because it will help you learn more skills and it is able to teach you new cooking skills you will be able to use during college,” Young said.

Cooking is also an effective way to relax and relieve stress during a long and tedious school day, as well as provide time to hang out and collaborate with friends.

“This class is really fun,” Young said.  “I look forward to coming here everyday, especially since there are nice friends here. You will meet a lot of people that can help you and learn a lot.”

Learning to cook can help students broaden their knowledge of worldwide cultures as well as learn to eat healthy, budget their money, and even clean.

“I learned how to work in a team,” freshman Isabella Farias said. “I learned a lot from it because before I used to be one of those kids that didn’t know how to cook anything, I didn’t even know how to make eggs. But now, I learned how to make a lot of food.”