Abbeville High students take one-of-a-kind course

A select group of students at Abbeville High School have traded in their pens and pencils for spoons and spatulas as part of Devin Romero’s Pro Start I culinary education and restaurant management class.

“Here in Vermilion Parish, we have a lot of students who work in restaurants,” Romero said. Starting at age 16, some students learn real-world experience while working in various restaurant or hospitality positions, and Romero said her class can help those students learn valuable tools and practices that can further their education in culinary and hospitality fields, which can translate into long-term careers in the future.

Taught daily in a classroom adjacent to a fully equipped kitchen, Romero said she hopes to teach students all about the culinary and hospitality industries, meanwhile providing hands-on experience.

“It’s a class that teaches students skills that they are going to use (if they) don’t go to college,” she said.

Romero’s is the first class in Vermilion Parish that has brought culinary and hospitality management to their students. This is the first year the class, Pro Start I, has been offered to Abbeville High juniors. She said North Vermilion and Kaplan High Schools will offer the course in the fall, and she hopes more schools will follow suit afterward.

“It’s what I love to do,” Romero said about her own personal preference to teach the course. She said he was a student teacher for a similar course taught at Northside High School in Lafayette, and the administration asked her to teach the course at Abbeville High.

Some 13 students at Abbeville High signed up for the course this year, and many plan on returning for the second half of the class, Pro Start II, to be taught by Romero next year.

Captain Cynthia Pham is one student who works in the restaurant industry outside of school. Pham, 17, said she has worked at Tsunami Sushi in Lafayette since May 2008. Her job has contributed to her being voted as the group captain, playing the lead role in the kitchen. She said her cutting and prep skills have designated her as one of the class’s “pros,” offering advice to other students about the skills she has learned. Pham said she is not sure if she wants to pursue a career in the culinary arts, but said she does plan on taking Pro Start II next year.

“It sounds fun, but I think I’m set on pharmacy,” she said.

Romero said her first year teaching the course is still being fine tuned, but she hopes to have more students take the course in the fall.

Pro Start I teaches all culinary skills and practices, including restaurant management and hospitality. Romero said her students are currently working on a project where groups create their own restaurants, think of a theme, menu, pricing and profitability. She said students prepare meals for various events including a Vermilion Parish School Board meeting and career day in New Iberia.

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