NOW THEY’RE COOKING: AHS students get chance to whip up a little something

ANDREWS Andrews High School has a revitalized culinary program complete with some of the latest equipment for students to learn the ins and outs of food preparation.

Baleigh Pugh and Jennifer Leatherwood teach the elective courses. Together, they have about 265 students.

“There’s four different types of classes that feed into this program. It starts at the principles of hospitality management, introduction to culinary, culinary arts, and then advanced culinary,” Pugh said.

She added that there are certain grades and prerequisites that students have to complete.

“To be able to take intro to culinary, they have to take (a) hospitality management class. After that, they’re able to work up through intro to culinary, culinary and then advanced,” Pugh said.

Initially, students have to get through safety and sanitation.

The courses stair step so you can’t take one without the other.

Izabella Montoya, 16, and Jose Castillo, 17, are enjoying themselves so far. Montoya is in introduction to culinary and Castillo is in advanced culinary.

“I was always in cooking and baking and I do it as a hobby, so I just wanted to try the new culinary program, especially since they updated the kitchen so we had more opportunities,” Montoya said.

She enjoys making pumpkin spice rolls.

Castillo said he likes cooking and is considering becoming a chef, so he thought this would be a good way to get there. He likes making steaks.

“It’s a great program and the kitchen, the school did a really good job on construction. It’s really nice,” Montoya said.

“I feel like we’re going to be able to do a lot of stuff in there,” Castillo added.

Pugh said she thinks interest in cooking is on the rise in part because of social media.

“I think it is helping. I think kids are becoming more interested in cooking and baking and decorating. I think they’re just excited about being able to do that, plus being in this kitchen,” Pugh said.

The kitchen is filled with all kinds of the latest equipment — stoves, heatless steamer boxes, deep fryers, convection ovens, hot boxes, two industrial meat slicers and industrial mixers, plus a bunch of small food processors.

Leatherwood taught sixth grade math for 10 years and she was ready for a change when she switched to culinary.

“It has been an adjustment, but it’s a lot of fun,” Leatherwood said.

At the end of August, Pugh was waiting for pots and pans, sheet pans, different cooking utensils, tools for cake decorating and cutting boards.

“… That is my plan is to help them, one, to be able to prepare food for themselves, but then be able to, if they choose to go into the food industry, that they are able to be confident in the work that they ‘re producing, as well as enjoying it,” Pugh said.

Andrews High School Principal John Carranco said the culinary program was added to enhance the overall career and technical education programs.

Andrews’ program started with a couple of introductory classes about four or five years ago and now it has grown to include two full-time teachers.

The equipment is some of the most up to date you’ll find at any district.

“When our students leave here and somebody wants to pursue a career in culinary arts, we’re giving them access to exceptional facilities. I think that will pay huge dividends in the future,” Carranco said.

A Levelland native, Pugh went to South Plains College for two years and finished at Texas Tech University where she earned a bachelor’s degree in family and consumer science education.

“My family is full of educators, so it’s in my blood. I have a love for teaching and just being around the students. They are really amazing,” Pugh said.

Growing up, Levelland competed against Andrews and she knew she wanted to be part of something with that high rigor.

She added that the students in Andrews are amazing.

“It is very similar (to) what I have grown up with. …Andrews is its own little community and everybody is very supportive. Everybody is very loving and they care about the school; they care about the kids. Overall, it’s been an amazing place. I’m super blessed to be here,” Pugh said.

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