Chef Jason’s Cooking Class

When Heritage Middle School incoming sixth grader Harper Hemme walked into “Chef Jason’s Cooking Class,” which is being piloted this summer June 22, 27 and 28 by GCISD Nutrition Services for students who have completed the third-fifth grades, she recalled thinking, “I knew it was going to be fun because there were a lot of baskets filled with stuff.”

GCISD Nutrition Services Director Julie Telesca, who came up with the idea together with her team, said that summer course “is to connect the cafeteria to the classroom and have students leave with skills and a memorable hands-on experience.”

Throughout the year, the district Nutrition Services Department also hosts other activities, such as Mathematics Monday and Literacy Lunches.

Jason Aronen, the district’s Chef and Culinary Trainer, leads the “Chef Jason’s Cooking Class,” which is held in the kitchen of the GCISD’s Professional Development Educational Center, better known as “PDEC.”

When students arrived at the class, they quickly found their stations, which were ready with an apron with the GCISD Nutrition Services logo, mixing bowls, a knife, safety gloves, a cutting board, containers with a variety of liquid ingredients and a bowlful of strawberries.

After a brief welcome, which included an overview of many career possibilities in the food industry such as nutritionists, food scientists and more, Aronen, better known as “Chef Jason,” announced that their first preparation would be making strawberry ice cream, “but first we are going to wash our hands and learn about knife safety,” he added.

“The safest way to hold a knife is to place your thumb and your forefinger on the blade like this,” Aronen said as he demonstrated at the front of the class before cooking got underway.

Above him was also a large mirror that detailed his motions up close so students could see and practice.

Once students had a good handle on their knife technique, it was time to start dicing strawberries beginning with cutting off the tops because as Chef Jason said, “you want to have a flat surface for the item when you are cutting.”

Members of the Nutrition Services Department and Chef Jason walked the stations to see if students needed help, and were consistently heard telling the young cooks, “you’re doing great.” Even when one of them splattered cream on their apron as they poured their liquid ingredients, they received an encouraging response.

“That’s okay,” Telesca said. “That happens in kitchens.”

Chef Jason then showed students how to whisk heavy cream and the other steps of making ice cream.

The class, which concluded at 3 p.m., progressed students through making chicken egg rolls, dumplings, dipping sauces, and shortbread cookies, which they took home, along with recipe cards of all their new culinary creations.

At the end of the class Olivia Kue, another incoming HMS sixth grader, said she had “the most fun of any cooking class. The chopping was hard, but it was also fun to get to the outcome and when you finally did, I was like ‘Yes!’”

When asked how she is going to use what she learned, Olivia’s response was “I’m probably going to make dinner tonight – maybe dumplings.”