The culinary program at Homewood-Flossmoor High School is so popular that some students have been turned away. Now the District 233 school board is considering adding a restaurant management course to the curriculum.
The culinary program has three classes. This year, there are 227 students in the 10 sections of Culinary I offered during the first semester, and there will be 207 students in the second-semester Culinary II course. There are 81 students in the Advanced Culinary course.
Staff had to hold off admitting more students due to limited space in the foods labs and students are on a waiting list, according to Jennifer Hester, director of curriculum, instruction and professional development at H-F.
In a proposal before the District 233 Planning Committee, the new course would begin in the 2023-24 school year in the Career and Technical Education Department. Once the course is approved, faculty will work on finalizing the curriculum and improvements will be made in the North Building to add an industrial-style kitchen.
Restaurant management would be a capstone course to H-F’s program. The curriculum would have students using not only the science in cooking and baking, but also the mathematics, accounting and business skills needed to operate a restaurant or catering business.
“We’re really looking to develop capstone courses for our students that bring in not just career exploration but career opportunities with career and workplace experience,” Hester told committee members.
The coursework would also prepare students for management certification through a professional organization. She said staff would also be exploring dual credit opportunities for the restaurant management students, so that if they go on to college or culinary school they would be eligible for credit for the H-F class.
Planning Committee members Nathan Legardy, Michelle Hoereth and Debbie Berman said they were in agreement with the new course concept.
“I love the course idea,” Hoereth said, but she wanted to know what the long-term goal was.
Hester said it’s much more than learning to cook. The way courses are structured, culinary is an interdisciplinary program. In addition, the restaurant management course would give students “the one step to credentials that allows them to gain employment in high school and to gain employment after they leave us. It puts them a step ahead and really focuses on the capstone experience.”
Committee members also wanted to know what the costs for the program would be.
During the committee’s discussion, Superintendent Von Mansfield said the former freshman wrestling room in the North Building would be converted for the culinary space. Some of the work can be done in-house, but the school board would need to work with an architect to make certain the space meets all health and safety codes. Mansfield said an estimate is $900,000 to $1.1 million, but he said that cost could go up, depending on how expensive the required equipment and work would run.
Hester said the Career and Technical Education Department has been able to cover most costs for the culinary program through the federal Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act. For example, H-F recently purchased industrial mixers for the culinary course. Once the new course is approved, H-F will apply for 2022 Perkins funding for the industrial kitchen needs, she said.
Member Berman suggested the proposal be jointly reviewed by the Planning Committee for the curriculum and Finance Committee for the construction costs.
The Planning Committee next meets Jan. 26, and the Finance Committee will meet Feb. 8.