- Sponsorship -

New commercial kitchen ready to teach the next top chefs

The Tech Center’s culinary program is constantly evolving 

Kent Career Tech Center culinary and hospitality students in the new commercial kitchen space that features 12 stations

Kent ISD — It almost feels like walking onto the set of a cooking competition when entering the new commercial kitchen located in the C-wing of the Kent Career Tech Center. 

“There is a lot more room in here,” said Godwin Heights junior Henry Rivera. “It is way more organized with every space having its own stove and oven, making it easier for students to do their own work.”

Chef Denise Pohl, one of the instructors for the Tech Center’s culinary program, admitted the new space, which opened this year, is “definitely state-of-the-art.” It features 12 cooking stations and an instructor station, with plans to add an audio-visual system over the instructor’s station to make it easier for students to follow what the instructor is doing.

The kitchen area is the newest addition to a culinary program that has seen several changes, especially as people’s tastes have changed, in the past decade, Pohl said. 

“We did a lot of casseroles and large-portion items (back then),” said Pohl, who joined the program in 2010. “There was a lot of chicken in sauces, where now it is more grilled meat or chicken with a chutney.”

Stocks and sauces are still part of the program, with students learning the five “mother sauces” of French cuisine: bechamel, veloute, espagnole, hollandaise and tomato. But as tastes changed and interests have developed in different food techniques, the program has adjusted to meet the culinary industry’s needs.

“There was a time when in the bakery you could get peanut butter cookies, but due to allergies they were removed from the offerings,” Pohl said.

The cookies are just one example of how food allergy consideration has been added into the program. Pohl said students now learn how to make gluten-free items and adapt recipes for other allergens. In fact, students can earn a ServSafe Allergen Certification, one of about 10 industry-recognized certifications offered.

The Tech Center’s hospitality and culinary program is the only secondary program in Michigan to have earned the American Culinary Federation Education Foundation accreditation for its culinary arts and baking and pastry programs, something the culinary team has maintained since 2011.

In 2017, the program added a chocolate room, giving students an opportunity to learn chocolate techniques and chocolate sculpting. In the past 10 years, the program also has added sugar sculpturing and ice carving.

A meat processing room was also added in 2017, where students can learn a number of skills from butchering to sausage-making, Pohl said.

“I had never butchered before being part of the program,” said West Catholic junior Tim Whitson, who butchered a chicken in preparation for an entrée his team would be making. “The other thing that surprised me was the smoker (which uses indirect heat cooking), which had a lot more to it than I expected.”

The ultimate goal of the hospitality and culinary program has remained the same: to provide students the skills that will make them employable in the industry or help them along in their post-secondary education, Pohl said.

Many of the Kent Career Tech Center culinary students said they enjoyed the large space of the new kitchen area

Those skills were evident as Jonathan Soto, a junior at Grand Rapids University Preparatory Academy, explained the difference between “sweating” and “sautéeing” onions: Sweating means softening the onions to remove water and make them translucent, while sautéeing means browning the onions to bring out a rich flavor. 

“There is so much new equipment in this space,” Jonathan said as he looked over the commercial kitchen. “There is more machinery such as a fryer. You just feel like it is more of a restaurant station.”

Shawnessa Jeffries, a senior at GRUPA, agreed, adding, “There is definitely a lot more space, but it is just nice to have a place where you can learn how to do all these different things.”

Read more from Kent ISD: 
Future healthcare pros sample multiple career focuses
Finding focus and a fresh start through auto mechanics

- Sponsorship -
Joanne Bailey-Boorsma
Joanne Bailey-Boorsma
Joanne Bailey-Boorsma is a reporter covering Kent ISD, Godwin Heights, Kelloggsville, Forest Hills and Comstock Park. The salutatorian for the Hartland Public Schools class of 1985, she changed her colors from blue and maize to green and white by attending Michigan State University, where she majored in journalism. Joanne moved to the Grand Rapids area in 1989, where she started her journalism career at the Advance Newspapers. She later became the editor for On-the-Town magazine, a local arts and entertainment publication. Her eldest daughter is a nurse, working in Holland, and her youngest attends Oakland University. Both are graduates from Byron Center High School. She is a volunteer for the Van Singel Fine Arts Advisory Board and the Kent District Library. In her free time, Joanne enjoys spending time with her family, checking out local theater and keeping up with all the exchange students they have hosted through the years. Read Joanne's full bio


Related Articles

- Sponsorship -

Issues in Education

Making Headlines

- Sponsorship -


Maranda Where You Live WGVU