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Cooking 101: A recipe for success

March 05, 2002|By JENNIFER RALTON-SMITH, Staff Writer

There's no mystery meat here — and the "cook's delight" really is delightful.

"Cafeteria food is not as good as the food we cook," 17-year-old senior Janet Lopez says with a big grin as she takes a break from making bread in the advanced foods class at Calipatria High School.

Thursdays at Calipatria High have special significance for teachers and staff because that's the day the food class prepares and cooks lunch.

Still, there's definitely no such thing as a free lunch for the educators — they each pay $5 for the pleasure of a hot dish, salad, dessert and fresh bread.


Math and physics teacher Mary Love says she tries hard not to miss the Thursday lunch.

"Whenever we have to go to a teachers' conference on a Thursday, it's always a real disappointment."

When informed chicken divan was on the menu for that day, Love was quick to exclaim, "Oh good! That's one of their best."

Teacher Roberta Kissee has been conducting the class for four years and runs a tight ship with no room for slackers.

Kissee says participating in the class teaches the students a sense of discipline and much of what they learn spills over into everyday life skills.

"They are taught to measure everything. They learn about vitamins and nutrition for their health and I require that they write reports and essays on what they have learned."

When asked if it was hard to get the students to clean up in the kitchen, Kissee sighed a little and said, "I have to keep after them — just like a mother."

"Kitchen group four! You've got cookie dough all over this ladle," Kissee calls out as she inspects group four's kitchen utensils.

Asked if cooking at school is different from cooking at home, 17-year-old senior Silvia Mendoza giggled and admitted that it really is different.

"At home we don't measure anything. Here we follow a recipe and measure everything!" she said.

At 7 a.m. sharp every Thursday, three students from the class arrive at school to start the lengthy process of bread making.

While the others were carefully tending to their respective batches of bread dough, 17-year- old senior Laura Cortez was busy washing dishes at the large industrial-sized sink.

Laura admitted ruefully that she had "sort of slept in" that morning and therefore had ended up with the dishwashing detail.

Laura was brave enough to admit to the time she had somewhat of a culinary disaster.

"We were cooking chicken divan and everything was set up. I just forgot to turn on the oven.

"Luckily, there were backup dishes available, so none of the teachers had to go hungry."

At 10 a.m. the rest of the cooking class comes in and starts preparing the rest of the meal, although the dessert has usually been prepared the day before.

Lunch is served at 11:45 a.m. and the students give up their lunch hour to serve the teachers and staff their lunch.

School network administrator Danny Parson says he definitely has the cooking classroom "targeted" on Thursdays around the noon hour.

"The cooking here is excellent and on a par with something you'd get at home," Parson said,

Asked if he'd ever experienced a Thursday culinary disaster, Parson said, "No, not at all — though there have been times when you wonder. One dish in particular I would kind of question — the sweet and sour meatloaf. I'd never heard of it before."

Agreeing to the suggestion that the food team may have been ad-libbing just a tad too much that day, Carson said, "Yeah, kind of — I think it was a little adventurous, but it worked out. It tasted OK."

According to Vice Principal Edgar Self, the fan club for the food class lunch is not limited to the folks at Calipatria High.

"District staff come as well; they close up their building and come down here."

Hard at work in the school office, attendance clerk Helen Singh was looking doleful this particular Thursday morning.

"I forgot it was Mrs. Kissee's cooking class lunch day," she said.

Singh had already ordered lunch from a local take-out place when she remembered it was lunch day. When asked if that meant she would be missing out on the advanced food class lunch, she said, "Well, umm, possibly — but I'll probably just take the take-out food home with me and buy lunch here in Mrs. Kissee's classroom."

>>Staff Writer Jennifer Ralton-Smith can be reached at 337-3442 or

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