Students prepared Pasta Arrabiata for their Professional Cook 1 course, a trades-oriented course for aspiring chefs that is being offered at Walnut Grove Secondary. (Ryan Uytdewilligen/Langley Advance Times)

One Season Restaurant is open Tuesdays through Thursdays until May 30 at Walnut Grove Secondary

Ryan Uytdewilligen/news@langleyadvancetimes.com

The local chefs of tomorrow are giving people a taste of what they can cook today.

The professional cooking program is offering its One Season Restaurant at Walnut Grove Secondary – and anyone looking for five-star dining is welcome to attend, said Sherri Silcox-Burk, career education associated professional for the district.

The kitchen crew crafting these “extravagant” three-course meals is made up of eight high school students looking to get into the culinary arts after graduation, she said.

This specialized program, offered through the Langley School District’s career education department, sees to it that those aspiring chefs don’t have to wait until post-secondary.

“What’s offered are high school programs and college-university programs rolled into one,” said Silcox-Burk.

“These students get the regular Vancouver Community College program that they would get if they went downtown with a VCC instructor.”

The program is in its third season, making the professional cooking program the newest of its kind for Langley.

Six other trade-oriented courses operate in similar hands-on fashions. Those include plumbing, horticulture, hair styling, carpentry, automotive, and electrical training.

STORY CONTINUES BELOW

“They are really successful because it’s another option for high school students who know where they are going and want to get that jumpstart,” Silcox-Burk explained.

Sixteen-year-old Richard Lee is one of the students taking the course and happens to be one year younger than his Grade 12 colleagues.

He was admitted into the program after showing “significant interest” and a desire to start honing his skills.

“You go through the same routine year after year… academics, science, and math; I still do those but now with something that I’m more passionate about,” Lee shared.

All potential students go through a lengthy application period, which is followed by a rigorous interview process.

Everything from kitchen safety to proper knife skills is taught through lecture classes before training begins in the kitchen.

Recipes are tried and tried again through the school year until they’re perfected. Then, under the leadership of chef Paul Crawford from VCC, dinner service commences for two months.

“Prep happens on Monday, and then we cook whatever portion is necessary for the meal on the day,” Lee explained. This means students are in the kitchen from 2:30 to 7:30 p.m., making everything from scratch, serving the food, and cleaning every dish.

They also get a chance to rotate, preparing entrees on some nights and sticking with salads and desserts for others.

Collectively, the students agreed that the mood can be “pretty intense, especially close to dinner service.”

But the hands-on skills developed through working together are worth the challenge when it comes to the opportunities and widened job prospects that await them after school.

“If they pass the program and the provincial standard Industry Training Authority exams, they have a Professional Cook 1 Certificate of Qualification,” Silcox-Burk said, “which is a standard step for your Red Seal to become a chef.”

The menu rotates weekly, which has included complex pasta dishes like Penne Arrabiata, worldly vegan cuisine like Moroccan Tagine, and even delectable desserts like chocolate mousse.

One Season Restaurant is open to the public on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. at the Walnut Grove Secondary cafeteria.

It operates until May 30 on a first-come basis, costing $12 for a two-course meal and $15 for three.

READ RELATED SCHOOL STORY: Country barn dance fundraises for Langley grads

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Richard Lee prepared vegetables ahead of a recent dinner. (Ryan Uytdewilligen/Langley Advance Times)

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