High school students can cook their way into the workforce

Tacos being served. (WINK News photo)
Tacos being served. (WINK News photo)

It is Taco Tuesday in Chef Art Phillips’ East Lee County High School classroom and a delicious smell is permeating in the air.

These “advanced” culinary art students are serving up tacos and quesadillas, prepared by them for their teachers. But they are doing more than just making a delicious meal.

Phillips said the program is important because he is preparing his students for work outside of school in hospitality, resorts, even hotel management.

“Once they become a senior,” Phillips said, “then we’ll be able to put them right out into the workforce.”

Senior Tori McNear is taking what she has learned in this kitchen to her current job in a restaurant.

“I’ve always had a passion for food and it’s kind of opened more doors for me,” McNear said.

The academy recently won the FLRA Taco Competition and it has three students entered in the Top Chef of Lehigh contest. In addition to NcNear, nine other seniors are already working in the real world.

As for the tacos on the class menu, they are served for $1. The proceeds are poured back into the classroom for the culinary students.

It is money that Phillips said comes back to Southwest Florida.

“From this program, they can go straight to that,” Phillips said. “They can start to make money. They can start to work their way through the hospitality system.”

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