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Today’s lesson: precious, delicious cargo

Culinary students learn more than food prep

Kent ISD— Some Kent Career Tech Center students learned recently that there’s much more to a career in culinary arts than food preparation.

A nearly three-week effort wrapped up recently when those in instructor Don Henderson’s pastry class were tasked in groups to transport wedding cakes they had designed, baked and decorated.

The Wyoming wedding cake team of (from left) Kola Miller, 2021 grad, Lowell High; Clayton Plender, 2021 grad Rockford High; and Reina Garcia, senior, Wyoming High. Not pictured: Summer Geelhoed, senior, Kent City High

It was the first year Henderson added the transport exercise. “I told them, brides are not coming to the Tech Center to get married; you have to take the cake to them. So many things can happen on your way from point A to point B, I wanted them to truly understand that stress, and to know what to do when something happens.”

Just as event caterers do, the students carefully loaded their creations into vehicles before sunrise, then braved traffic – and increasingly snowy conditions – to about a dozen locations that included their own schools.

Once there, they assembled the multi-tiered cakes using dowels to scaffold the layers, then disassembled and served them – experiencing firsthand how nearly three weeks of work can disappear inside guests’ mouths in mere minutes.

East Grand Rapids High senior Maeve Coretti, Cedar Springs High senior Margaret Brenner, and Emma Sutherland, a senior at charter school Wellspring Preparatory High, teamed up to deliver their vanilla, chocolate and raspberry cake with buttercream frosting to Maeve’s school.

‘So many things can happen on your way from point A to point B, I wanted them to truly understand that stress, and to know what to do…’

— Don Henderson, Kent Career Tech Center pastry instructor

Maeve transported the top layer on a sheet pan she carefully placed on the floor of the front passenger seat of her silver Buick Enclave. After placing the other two layers into the towel-covered backseat of Emma’s blue Toyota Sienna minivan, the two vehicles made the 10-minute drive along snow-covered roads to Maeve’s school.

“A lot can happen in 10 minutes,” said Margaret. “I’m hanging onto that cake for dear life.”

Emma said turning onto the East Beltline and driving in rush-hour traffic was “kind of scary,” but transit casualties were minor: both layers she was carrying slid a couple inches on their sheets, but were easily scootched back into place; some icing got smushed but when re-done turned out to be “some of my best work;” and a broken “H” for the topper made of delicate frozen icing was pieced into something resembling the letter and camouflaged with real mini-roses.

Though Maeve initially called the exercise “horrible and terrifying,” she admitted afterward that it had absolutely been worth it.

“If we want to do this (professionally), it’s good practice to experience the stress,” she said.

Explore more unique video stories of students learning, interesting school programs and educators working to help all children succeed.

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Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema is a reporter and copy editor, covering Kent ISD, Forest Hills and Northview. She is a Grand Rapids native and a product of Grand Rapids Public Schools, including Brookside and West Leonard elementaries, City Middle/High School and Ottawa Hills. She found her tribe in journalism in 1997 and has never wanted to do anything but write. For 15 years she was a freelance journalist for The Grand Rapids Press, covering local schools and government, religion, business, home & garden and lifestyles. She and her husband, John, think even those without kiddos should be invested in their local schools and made to feel a part of them. Read Morgan's full bio

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