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MHS culinary arts students prepare meal for ASBSD

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Posted: Tuesday, October 8, 2019 3:23 pm

Aspiring chefs were working at four workstations in a kitchen at Madison High School on Monday night. The countdown had begun.

At 6 p.m., guests attending a regional meeting of the Associated School Boards of South Dakota would be served the meal by the culinary arts class.

The dessert -- caramel apple crisp in separate ramekins -- was in warmers, having been baked earlier in the afternoon. Ice cream drizzled with caramel would be added just before it was served.

Vegetables had also been prepped earlier, but there was much to do. Ham potato corn chowder was being stirred in large roasters as it thickened.

Chicken was being sauteed in skillets for the Tuscan butter chicken over linguine, one of two entrees from which guests could choose. It would be served in a sauce prepared with dried tomatoes, spinach and Parmesan cheese.

Spanish rice was being prepared at another station. It would be served with spicy shrimp tacos prepared with freshly harvested shrimp from Tru Shrimp's Balaton Bay Reef. At the final workstation, the shrimp was being shelled.

MHS uses ProStart for the culinary arts program, which is part of the hospitality and tourism career cluster. The two-year ProStart program was developed by the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation to prepare high school students for leadership roles in the workplace.

"It's not just being in the kitchen, making wonderful, mouth-watering food; it's about all facets of the industry," teacher Sarah Jongeling explained.

Not all students who go through the program pursue a career in food service, but some of her graduates have. One of her former students -- Carson Stemper -- has opened his own restaurant in Madison: The Office Bar and Grill.

As one of her current students observed, the class is useful whether students enter the hospitality industry or not.

"It's a good life skill to have," Ethan Brown said.

On Monday night, as the students worked, Superintendent Joel Jorgenson stopped by the kitchen and commented on the mouth-watering aroma. He said he didn't share the menu with others, but suspected the word got out. The projected attendance was twice the number who normally attend a regional meeting.

Since Tru Shrimp announced plans earlier in the year to build its first commercial harbor in Madison, the company has been introducing people in the community to the shrimp which will be grown using the shallow-basin technology. Jack's Meat Market prepared some during one of the DownTown in MadTown concerts this summer.

When MHS Principal Adam Shaw approached the company about donating shrimp for the culinary arts class, the company not only provided the shrimp but also taught the students how to remove the heads and de-vein it.

"You pinch between the meat and the head and it slides right out," Nathan Meyer said.

The shrimp's internal organs are connected to the head, so it's a single-step process. De-veining is similar.

"You put your thumb between the meat and shell and just pull it through," he said.

The seven students in Level 2 of the ProStart program not only learned how to process fresh shrimp in September but also experimented with recipes provided by Andy Easley, Tru Shrimp director of human resources and governmental relations. The results were more than satisfying.

"It's amazing. It's absolutely amazing," Jongeling said. "Until you've tasted it yourself, it's hard to grasp."

Students appreciated the freshness, too.

"The Tru Shrimp had a lot more flavor than any shrimp I've had before," Meyer said.

When the students began to plan the menu for the ASBSD dinner, the question was not whether to include shrimp but which shrimp dish to prepare.

"We had made Tuscan butter shrimp over linguine. We added a squeeze of lemon at the end and it was so good," said Sahara VanTassel.

They had also made spicy shrimp tacos from a couple different recipes and liked that as well. Recognizing the need to offer guests a choice, they opted to serve chicken and shrimp.

The taco recipe chosen for the ASBSD meal was an adaptation of the recipes students had tried. Small flour tortillas were filled with shrimp, a sauce students had made, and a slaw which included radishes, cabbage and cilantro.

As they worked on Monday evening, the students needed little guidance. On Friday, they had done a trial run.

"I wanted to make sure they had experience with each recipe before they made it for 40 people," Jongeling explained.

Still, there was a buzz of anticipation in the kitchen. As mealtime approached, they checked and double-checked the prepared ingredients to ensure they would be able to assemble plates in assembly-line fashion.

They also looked forward to sitting down to their own meals after serving their guests, especially the shrimp tacos. Jongeling was grateful for the donation which provided her students with that opportunity.

"Shrimp is expensive," she explained. "To get a donation of pretty awesome shrimp...we felt really blessed."

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