Join us in conversation with Chef Tiffany Lewis to discover how she delivers culinary arts curriculum that inspires students in the kitchen, in their other classes, and onward to pursue fulfilling careers. 

Chef Tiffany Lewis in Classroom Conversations

Join us in conversation with Chef Tiffany Lewis to discover how she delivers culinary arts curriculum that inspires students in the kitchen, in their other classes, and onward to pursue fulfilling careers. 


Ashley Mengwasser: Hello teachers. This is Classroom Conversations. Thank you for listening to the podcast for Georgia's Teachers. Classroom Conversations is a joint partnership of the Georgia Department of Education and Georgia Public Broadcasting, salt and pepper those two. I'm Ashley Mengwasser, usually your host, but I'm doffing my floppy hat to don my toque blanch. That's a chef's hat. Today I'm a sous chef actually alongside an actual culinary artist, lest I overcook this content. This episode will benefit your closest buds, your taste buds. Let them water with anticipation as we discuss food for thought. Our main is this, how culinary arts instruction serves up healthy habits and cross content connections? To the aspiring top chef listening and the teacher just trying to get an edible dinner on the table, prepare to be amazed by today's guest. Her tools are sharp, her ingredients fresh, and her smoke point pointers on point. She's a 12 year educator and chef, Tiffany Lewis. Chef Tiffany teaches culinary arts at Carroll County College and Career Academy South in Carrollton, through a program that integrates high school courses, technical skills and real world work experiences for high schoolers. Welcome, Chef Tiffany.

Chef Tiffany: Thank you.

Ashley Mengwasser: How are you?

Chef Tiffany: I love that.

Ashley Mengwasser: I'm glad you love that. I love your apron. Is this called an apron?

Chef Tiffany: No, this is the chef coat.

Ashley Mengwasser: The chef coat. I didn't even know it was called that. It's a beautiful orange like fire, you are like. You belong in a kitchen.

Chef Tiffany: Yes. It has to match your personality.

Ashley Mengwasser: Exactly. And it does match your personality. Would you please regale us with how you became a chef first and then culinary arts teacher?

Chef Tiffany: So the journey.

Ashley Mengwasser: The journey.

Chef Tiffany: I was a teen mom, and so all of a sudden I said, I need to figure out what I'm going to do with myself quickly and in a hurry. It had to be something that I love and I was not going to take anything else for an answer and nobody was going to press me into any other direction. And food was the thing that came to mind. I was like, culinary school, that's two years? I can do that. So I took a gap year and I waited a year before I went off to school. Then once I graduated, of course I had to run off and get married. Right?

Ashley Mengwasser: Of course. How romantic.

Chef Tiffany: Yes. We had this trucking company and I created that. That was his dream. And I set my own things aside and that recession that popped up, what a wonderful thing it had been. He said, this is a great time for you to do your culinary thing. Okay, I'm not coming back-

Ashley Mengwasser: There you go.

Chef Tiffany: ... to this. But I did do trucking in a different capacity. So I did my personal chef thing for a while and I had an opportunity to teach at West Georgia Technical College, and it was a temporary position. And eventually I said I needed to go on and get my master's because I kind of like this teaching thing. Maybe I can do that online while I'm dispatching trucks and in between. So that was an idea.

And then I got this call from my CTAE director, Cindy Clanton, and she talked about coming to teach there and that's what I've been doing ever since.

Ashley Mengwasser: Ever since. So while you were working in trucking, you were a teacher in training. Really?

Chef Tiffany: Yes.

Ashley Mengwasser: And you said you were a personal chef. What kind of clients did you cook for?

Chef Tiffany: My preference was the person that needed me the most, the busy working somebody who's not wanting to go to the drive-through all the time.

Ashley Mengwasser: Okay. Well let's bring this conversation to a boil, Chef Tiffany, before we reduce to a simmer. I know our audience is hungry for your feedback. So I like to call this little chef Tiffany Q&A, Let's Dish. Are you ready?

Chef Tiffany: I'm ready.

Ashley Mengwasser: If you could just give me some short answers to these questions.

Chef Tiffany: Okay.

Ashley Mengwasser: What do you think is the biggest insight that we miss as people just preparing our own meals at home? Is there some truth about cooking for ourselves that we're leaving on the proverbial table, do you think?

Chef Tiffany: I think people overthink it. That it has to be some perfect way of doing something. There's only so many cooking techniques that you can apply to food.

Ashley Mengwasser: Good point.

Chef Tiffany: Yes. My oldest son, when I taught him, I say, you need to learn how to boil something and fry something. After that, you can apply those techniques to everything. And so now he's the best cook I know.

Ashley Mengwasser: He is?

Chef Tiffany: He is.

Ashley Mengwasser: Oh, you taught him. Well. Okay. What pantry and refrigerated essentials should we always have on hand? What are some of those staples?

Chef Tiffany: Well, since I am the co-founder of a spice company, I'll have to say you have to have every spice known to man that you can find.

Ashley Mengwasser: I love spices. Yeah.

Chef Tiffany: So I love to make the blends. Make the blends at home and having-

Ashley Mengwasser: Just mixing spices together?

Chef Tiffany: Mm-hmm. And that's what we do in the company. So if I want to Moroccan flare, I already have those things blended together. But who goes out and gets 20 different ingredients for that one-time experience? So, you have to have those options at home. And fresh herbs and variety of onions, of course.

Ashley Mengwasser: Onions.

Chef Tiffany: Coconut milk.

Ashley Mengwasser: I use the same onion for everything. Is that bad?

Chef Tiffany: It's not bad. It might be a preference, but I need you to open your horizons.

Ashley Mengwasser: Got it. Got it. I usually just buy the white onion. I see it. I'm like, there it is. But I ignore all the other onions. That's not fair. They all make me cry, I hold that against them. Coconut milk, you said?

Chef Tiffany: Yes.

Ashley Mengwasser: What do you use that for?

Chef Tiffany: It has this creaminess about it, and I don't personally eat dairy products, so I'm not going to add milk or yogurt. So it kind of gives you that same effect, but with the tropical flare.

Ashley Mengwasser: Yeah. I like that. Okay, those are good. Is there a dish or a culinary style that you are best known for? You'd say it's your best hit.

Chef Tiffany: Well, it depends on who you ask. If you're at school, their favorite would be requesting sun dried tomato pesto pasta with either sausage or chicken or shrimp or all of the above.

Ashley Mengwasser: That sounds really good.

Chef Tiffany: At home it's chickpeas with coconut curry.

Ashley Mengwasser: Oh, definitely a range there. As I would expect. Very nice. Do chefs like to be cooked for?

Chef Tiffany: Absolutely.

Ashley Mengwasser: Really?

Chef Tiffany: Yes.

Ashley Mengwasser: It feels like an impulse. You'd be like, I've got it. I've got this.

Chef Tiffany: Yes. We do like to be cooked for, and I think people are intimidated to cook, but we're appreciating what people can do. So we're not judging. We're like, I'm not working.

Ashley Mengwasser: Yes.

Chef Tiffany: I didn't have to do it. And by the way, how did you do that?

Ashley Mengwasser: Excellent perspective. So there's always something to learn by receiving somebody else's cooking.

Chef Tiffany: Yes.

Ashley Mengwasser: I'm sure you're teaching that as part of your coursework, I want to hear about that soon.

Chef Tiffany: Yes.

Ashley Mengwasser: Now I know that culinarians care as much about food being delectable and tasty as it being beautiful. So of the various components of the culinary arts there's food preparation, food presentation, and food service. Would you just give us a little bit of wisdom for each of those? What is your wisdom for food preparation?

Chef Tiffany: I would say making sure that things are consistent. So you don't have to know how to do all the knife cuts, but if you have a teeny tiny piece and then this huge piece over here, your dish is going to be inconsistent. So as long as the items are similar... And I try to make the students relax in that way, I'm not so stressed about you getting the perfect batonnet or brunoise, but are they similar in size so that we can cook it evenly?

Ashley Mengwasser: Be consistent. And what is your wisdom for food presentation?

Chef Tiffany: You eat with your eyes. The people who know a dish and they like it, they don't care what it looks like. But most people, when you're presenting them with something and they're unfamiliar, it needs to look good. It needs to be balanced. It needs to have those components that are the color and the texture and the brightness. My mom used to talk about making a dish for my dad, he was a cook, he complained about the colors. You can't have mashed potatoes, corn and fried chicken together. That's the wrong colors. So I always remember that and balancing what things look like.

Ashley Mengwasser: There is an initial visual imprint when you receive a dish, even in a restaurant. You have that gut reaction of ooh. And I think that that's a good place to start receiving and taking in a meal is you want to have that ooh experience. I love that.

Chef Tiffany: Yes.

Ashley Mengwasser: And what is your wisdom for food service?

Chef Tiffany: For the service of food? For the back of the house. We have this thing in our kitchen where, and even my kids at home, if you don't close your eyes at how good this food is, you don't serve it. You have to go back and make sure that it's as good as you would like to have it. And so before you're presenting it to somebody, make sure that it's the product that you want to put out. And for the front of the house, making sure you understand the guests, making sure you can communicate what it is to the back of the house that they want and getting the information from them of what they desire and making sure that you're mindful of allergies and things like that. It creates an experience.

Ashley Mengwasser: Yeah, a well-rounded experience. I can tell you're so proficient at that. Are your high schoolers that you work with good cooks, they're pretty good.

Chef Tiffany: They are. They are when they get there, they just don't know yet.

Ashley Mengwasser: So it's a process you're guiding them through to that discovery. So you tell them to what? Prepare to just be creative and...

Chef Tiffany: Well, first I try to address any of their insecurities with a little survey or questionnaire about what are they worried about. Where they're always worried about getting it right or getting it wrong or burning it I say, well, you burn it, you clean it. That is the rule. So we're not worried about that. And if you're paying attention, you have no reason to burn it because you didn't leave it unattended. So I also tell them that I do burn butter and bread and rice, but it's because I'm running around the kitchen helping you. So if you're around the food that I'm cooking, it's your fault if it burns because you should be paying attention to everybody's food on your stove.

Ashley Mengwasser: Right. One of the words you've told me that you really instill in your young cooks in training is intuition. That there is a space for intuition in the kitchen.

Chef Tiffany: It is. In hindsight, we always know we should have done something or we knew to do that or this or whatever. And so they hesitate based on what it is I'm going to think. And so I put it back on them. What is it that you're going to think about this outcome of this dish? It's up to you.

Ashley Mengwasser: It's up to you. Do your students have a favorite lesson in the classroom?

Chef Tiffany: Chewing. They like to chew. They really enjoy doing the front of the house stuff. I think we're so busy in the kitchen. When we sit down in the classroom, they like to do the napkin folds and preparing for competition. And they like just the front of the house service because we do some role play and things like that and so they really cut up with that.

Ashley Mengwasser: That sounds like a good time.

Chef Tiffany: And these garnishes that you do with your garnishee tools and having fun with creating flowers and flower baskets and all of that out of fruits and vegetables. And then they argue, if they're in a group, who's going to take it home. So I say take a picture and you all have it forever.

Ashley Mengwasser: You are so contagious, Chef Tiffany, I just know you're full of wonderful sayings that stick with your students. What are you known for saying in your classroom?

Chef Tiffany: The famous saying is, do you know how many cents that is? When I was in culinary school, we were graded by how much waste was there and you lose a letter grade based on that waste because that amount of food, whether it's a centimeter or half an inch it's going to add up over the year to be pounds and pounds of food. And so, restaurants fail because they lose money or they don't know how to manage.

Ashley Mengwasser: Interesting.

Chef Tiffany: And so you should be there helping them to improve those savings by being mindful of the things that you're throwing away.

Ashley Mengwasser: Yeah. Do you know how many cents that is? Is there anything else you're known for saying?

Chef Tiffany: Well, there's quite a few things.

Ashley Mengwasser: I like what you say for... What was it? Something about dropping an item.

Chef Tiffany: Oh, whenever we're in the kitchen and somebody drops something, I didn't know early on that I needed to tell somebody to wash something.

Ashley Mengwasser: Oh, after it's hit the floor.

Chef Tiffany: And so it hits the floor and being young they just want to put it away because they just made all this noise. And so I started saying, wash it.

Ashley Mengwasser: Wash it.

Chef Tiffany: Yeah. So now in unison as a chorus, anytime anybody drops anything and it scares the visitors or people coming to put something away from another class, everybody's like, wash it. And so I think they have the most fun when I drop something because they get to boss me and say, wash it to Chef-

Ashley Mengwasser: Wash it, wash it

Chef Tiffany: Without thinking that they'll be in trouble. But then I have them wash it.

Ashley Mengwasser: Then we wash it. All of that is just beautiful discourse that I consider maybe the appetizer portion of our conversation. But let's change course. Let's go to the entree, the meat of the matter, which is just the collective benefits of culinary arts instruction for students, which you know so much about. What makes a successful culinary arts program in your mind's eye?

Chef Tiffany: When I first started I had the white apron, they just sent me the magic apron and say, here, go ahead and teach and really trusted that I was the expert, and I was nervous wreck. So I think having a curriculum that's in place to make sure you are going over the techniques and the food safety, nutrition and menu planning and all of that, that's really important to have. But we can talk about these things all day theoretically, but they need to have an opportunity to put those things into practice, making sure instructors have some industry experience and the teaching skills. You really don't know that you have teaching skills until you get in there.

Ashley Mengwasser: Yeah, that's true. It's kind of on the ground training.

Chef Tiffany: And it tests your own knowledge. So for everything that we're teaching them, our expertise may not have been into a place in that category. So we have to go in and relearn some of the stuff that we might've got taught in culinary school that we never put into practice. And I think one of the main things is relationship. Everybody can't teach high school students. I can't teach elementary school students as effectively as I can a high school student. So I think the relationship and being able to connect to an adolescent where they are and encouraging them in a space so that they feel productive and creative, and just having that outgoing personality where they can just jump in and get those things done.

Ashley Mengwasser: Be comfortable to achieve.

Chef Tiffany: Yes.

Ashley Mengwasser: Yeah. How does your school's culinary arts program compare to maybe a traditional course or classroom? Similar? Different?

Chef Tiffany: I would say that there are some similarities, but mostly differences. I wouldn't even say just my culinary classroom, but CTAE in general is theoretical, knowledge mixed with that practical application. And it's a unique setup for us to have CTE programs.

Ashley Mengwasser: And what does that acronym stand for?

Chef Tiffany: Career and Technical Education. I think the STEM model is kind of getting the idea of what CTE has been doing for decades and marrying those two things together. So it just makes a connection with the hands-on and the problem solving and the teamwork just comes with it. When the students come to tour, one thing that I like to talk to them about, and they're in the eighth grade coming through trying to make a decision. So we have them to look at those programs in their face instead of on a piece of paper trying to decide. And the teachers that are with them are always so happy that I mentioned culinary is science, culinary is geography, culinary is math. I'm like, sweetheart, we will use this pizza to learn our fractions if we have to, but please do not come to me looking for a three-quarter cup because we have a half and a fourth. So those are the ways that those things kind of bridge together and they're using it all.

Ashley Mengwasser: Okay, got you. That's actually an initialism. Correct myself. How does the culinary arts program foster creativity and innovation, I know you're really promoting that and intuition when you're talking with your students, how does this sort of program support that?

Chef Tiffany: Everything about culinary is creative and it feels innovative, especially to the students because this is their first time experiencing any of those things. I give them those fundamentals and then allow them to and encourage them to think outside of the box. So I had this issue in culinary school, and I always like to say that I didn't know how to cook when I left culinary school-

Ashley Mengwasser: Really?

Chef Tiffany: ... and I was really dependent on a recipe. And so I don't like that for them, and I don't like how that made me feel. It didn't empower me in the industry. And so they're scared, but they get over it when I just put out ingredients for that. And so allowing them to put their spin on the fundamentals that I teach them is what fosters that creativity. And then me reminding them, hey, we're doing these things, make it your own. But in the beginning, we make it just like you're supposed to make it. You make it the classic way just so that you know how to do it. And we have students from different backgrounds, and so when we get to a cuisine or something that their family background is familiar with, students are calling on each other and they're like, is this right? Does this taste right? And I'm like, is this right? Does it taste right? So it's a really wonderful sight to see and gives them. It's nice to see the collaboration and the pride that they have working with each other and asking questions.

Ashley Mengwasser: When there is so much innovation in the culinary arts, how do you keep current with the latest trends and advancements so that you're teaching the latest, most up-to-date curriculum?

Chef Tiffany: Well, it seems like I can't stay out of school myself. Currently, I am working on my specialist degree and a doctorate. And so part of that is about staying up to date and making sure that we are translating the information that the students need to know, keeping relationships with schools and other chefs, and just some industry leaders asking them to come in to talk to the students to do demos. And just opening it up even for parents, because some of the parents are owned businesses and it doesn't necessarily need to be inside of the culinary industry for them to present something to students that can be really helpful as far as those soft skills.

Ashley Mengwasser: Yeah, that's really good. How do you encourage your students, you mentioned they have different cultural backgrounds, how do you encourage them to explore and appreciate different cuisines and culinary traditions from around the world? I know your spice blends, I know all about you taking a risk. So is that how you do it? You just try a bunch of different stuff?

Chef Tiffany: First, I give them no choice.

Ashley Mengwasser: Okay. Require it first.

Chef Tiffany: That's what is on our list of things to do for our lesson plan. But I asked them a few things in our syllabus when we're starting out. Be open-minded to try new things and understand that there's more than one way to get something done. And so in our Culinary Two class, it's important to expose them to all of these different kinds of foods. We organize field trips and we go to-

Ashley Mengwasser: Oh yeah. Where do you go on your field trips?

Chef Tiffany: ... restaurants, and just some ethnic markets. We're still trying to get over to the DeKalb Farmers Market so they can see the spice wall that I love so much.

Ashley Mengwasser: Oh yes, I love shopping there.

Chef Tiffany: Yes. And we take it a step further, and I take them on international tours. So the tours that we've already been on, London, Paris, Barcelona, Costa Rica. Next year we're going to Dominican Republic, there's a cooking class in there. Of course, there's surfing class, there's a pottery class, which I love and do. And then after that year, we're scheduled for Thailand in 2025.

Ashley Mengwasser: Amazing. And what grade are they, these high schoolers when they're taking these international excursions?

Chef Tiffany: 9th through 12th grade.

Ashley Mengwasser: 9th graders go?

Chef Tiffany: And I even let their, if their siblings want to go, they have cousins, let's go.

Ashley Mengwasser: Wonderful.

Chef Tiffany: Let's have a good time. Parents, I try to encourage them to tag along with us.

Ashley Mengwasser: Yeah. So there are requirements. You mentioned the curriculum you're trying to achieve, and also there's a health side of this. How are you collaborating with the school's nutrition program? What value comes from that?

Chef Tiffany: We have a really strong relationship with our school nutrition program. We don't have a cafeteria at our career academy, but when students finish the pathway, they can apply to work as a staff member during the school year in what would've been my fourth semester. So my pathway is only three semesters, so that fourth semester, and if they can fit it in later on, they can work during the school day. That gives them that hands-on experience. They have a mentor and the people that they're working with over there, it widens just their perspectives on what can be done in the industry. And then they get a check, which they're thrilled about once a month with the rest of us. And so I love that.

Ashley Mengwasser: Working world.

Chef Tiffany: Yes, the students who have extracurricular activities especially, they can't always work after school, especially whatever season they're in. If they're like my boys, they were doing something every season. But the kids who are not doing extracurricular activities, that's two paychecks. They're working after school. They're working during school. And so they're making it happen. And sometimes that's how the students pay for their international tour.

Ashley Mengwasser: So there's a job opportunity in the school's nutrition program. That's wonderful. And on the flip side, culinary arts teaches healthy practices. Healthy habits. I mentioned that in our intro. What have you witnessed in your students' eating habits as a result of your course?

Chef Tiffany: Well, my doctorate is in holistic nutrition. So when we do nutrition, we do nutrition.

Ashley Mengwasser: Nutrition.

Chef Tiffany: And so they do learn a lot of extra things. And I think based on the chef that you have and the experiences, those strengths are going to come out. And so they learn all the details about the best ways to cook things, to have the most nutritional value. They look at those brussel sprouts and they're like, oh my God, I don't like brussel sprouts. But when we saute them and parmesan cheese and bacon-

Ashley Mengwasser: Changes your experience.

Chef Tiffany: Now you're making it at home. I thought you didn't-

Ashley Mengwasser: Who doesn't love a good sprout?

Chef Tiffany: ... I thought you didn't eat brussel sprouts? But they're still going to eat their pizza.

Ashley Mengwasser: Yes, they will.

Chef Tiffany: And that's okay.

Ashley Mengwasser: Yes. Do they participate in any community events through your program?

Chef Tiffany: I'd like to do more of that. We do as a class, go to the Taste of Carrollton, and I encourage them to go to the neighboring ones. And I'm always posting the places that I go.

Ashley Mengwasser: I love a taste of.

Chef Tiffany: Yes. A taste of anything is tasty.

Ashley Mengwasser: Yeah. Well said.

Chef Tiffany: We're considering doing our own dedicated booth.

Ashley Mengwasser: Really?

Chef Tiffany: At some point.

Ashley Mengwasser: I would come, Chef Tiffany.

Chef Tiffany: I'm scared. I don't know if I'm ready. We have them an hour a day. They're so young, but they're capable-

Ashley Mengwasser: But you told me they're good cooks.

Chef Tiffany: They're capable.

Ashley Mengwasser: And you're teaching them to trust their intuition in the kitchen.

Chef Tiffany: Yes. But we're also looking at pushing the proposal to get approval for a food truck.

Ashley Mengwasser: Oh man.

Chef Tiffany: We really love to do that. And then we can really showcase what they're doing.

Ashley Mengwasser: What they're capable of.

Chef Tiffany: Yes.

Ashley Mengwasser: Oh, that sounds wonderful. What strategies do you have in place to support your students who want to pursue advanced training in culinary arts or some sort of higher education in this after high school?

Chef Tiffany: Well, in CTE our side job is making sure students get situated for beyond high school. So we have advanced training. For those who want the advanced training, we have some of that. And we have counseling services of course, and we provide guidance and whatever they need. We keep connections with the culinary schools. And I have one person, restaurant on our board, he's very busy, but he says, you know what? The way I'll participate is if you want a kid to see if this is the industry for them, send them over on a Friday and Saturday.

Ashley Mengwasser: There you go.

Chef Tiffany: And they'll find out whether this is for them. So, letting them get into those situations, I knew I loved food because my grandma cooked 364 days out of the year and oh my goodness-

Ashley Mengwasser: What's the one day?

Chef Tiffany: The one day was a tuna salad or a sandwich? And I'm like, she didn't warn me. I had no idea. I don't smell anything-

Ashley Mengwasser: Cooking-

Chef Tiffany: ... when I'm walking to the house. So, we try to support them in any which way they want to go. And if they're choosing culinary over something that their hearts desire, I try to move them to a class where the thing is that they want to do. Oh, you want to be a doctor or a teacher you should be in this other class.

Ashley Mengwasser: There you go.

Chef Tiffany: And then they have room to take my class at other times. So we want to point them in the right direction.

Ashley Mengwasser: That's part of your role too, you're sort of shepherding as well. I think that's a powerful point too. There are community partners who will uphold this mission with you, but sometimes everybody deserves the rush that I get as a host, that you get when you're cooking. We want to point people toward their rush, I think.

Chef Tiffany: Yes.

Ashley Mengwasser: Have you ever had a student who just was not hacking it, just didn't care, wasn't into it, and then maybe turned around with a bit of a success story?

Chef Tiffany: There's always one. There's always one in every group. You're right. And being able to encourage them and see past their moment, there's so much more behind-

Ashley Mengwasser: Those defenses.

Chef Tiffany: ... Their life that you don't know. And so a lot of what we do is spending time getting to know and trying to associate my experiences. Which, being a teen mom is one of those things that's really connected me to students and sharing that with them. And they're like, oh my God, you told them that? Absolutely. And some of them are. So they're able to have a conversation and be open, and now I'm a real person and not just this teacher.

Ashley Mengwasser: And now you're about to be Dr. Chef Tiffany when you're... How are you going to do the titles for that?

Chef Tiffany: They were trying to figure it out. They said they liked Dr. Chef.

Ashley Mengwasser: Dr. Chef.

Chef Tiffany: I'm like I don't know how I feel about that.

Ashley Mengwasser: But to your earlier tenet of relationships, you're building relationships with these students. So that share divulging things sometimes could be the bridge to them.

Chef Tiffany: It makes them never go away.

Ashley Mengwasser: Yeah, they stick around.

Chef Tiffany: Yes. And they call and they message and that's great.

Ashley Mengwasser: You're Mama Chef Tiffany.

Chef Tiffany: I am.

Ashley Mengwasser: At that point.

Chef Tiffany: I'm Mama Dr. Chef.

Ashley Mengwasser: Mama Dr. Chef. After your students graduate, do you see any interesting long-term career paths from any former students in the culinary arts?

Chef Tiffany: I would say you're teaching them how to fish.

Ashley Mengwasser: I see.

Chef Tiffany: They keep getting younger and younger as they come to me. Ideally, I would love for them to come in 11th grade, like a dual enroll program and run off to culinary school into the sunset.

Ashley Mengwasser: Into the sunset on a horse.

Chef Tiffany: Yes. But they're coming in 9th grade, and if I wait to want to get them in 11th grade, I'm competing with AP and dual enrollment and all of that. So the beauty is the earlier you get them, the longer they have to practice those techniques. And so some of them end up cooking at home and that's okay. And I had to learn to be okay with that.

Ashley Mengwasser: That's right.

Chef Tiffany: But most of us will certainly go into the food service industry, whether we like it or not, even if it is to fuel another goal. So they may be wait staff or back of the house while they're trying to become the doctor or whatever else-

Ashley Mengwasser: Which is still propulsion in that direction.

Chef Tiffany: Right.

Ashley Mengwasser: Very good. What would you say are the most common outcomes for students as a result of participating in the culinary arts program at your school?

Chef Tiffany: I would say they have some strong foundational techniques in culinary, and they're definitely knowledgeable about nutrition and menu planning, because I make them-

Ashley Mengwasser: You care about that.

Chef Tiffany: Yes. Yes. I make them create their menus. I make them make them balanced. And I said, if I eat plant-based and I come to a restaurant where you are and you don't have an option for me other than a salad and a potato-

Ashley Mengwasser: Bye-bye.

Chef Tiffany: ... I'm going to be upset. So creating their minds around being mindful of what people's desires are in food service. And ultimately, a lot of them will practice a lot of that. And so that makes me happy when I see them posting things around where they're working or what they're doing. A few won't tell me where they work.

Ashley Mengwasser: Oh, interesting.

Chef Tiffany: They said, Chef, you're going to come by. Of course I'm going to come by because I want to see you.

Ashley Mengwasser: Well, this is where you can borrow my skillset and I can find out exactly where they are. And then you can go pop by and see how they're doing, applying your skills.

Chef Tiffany: Yes. But my favorite thing is that this foundation for their personal lives, they're going to need to feed their family. They're going to need to how to do that. They can do that for a family of 4 at $15.

Ashley Mengwasser: Look at that.

Chef Tiffany: They can be creative with their leftovers. They can have some independence. They can do the Thanksgiving dinner.

Ashley Mengwasser: Yes.

Chef Tiffany: They can do the events and they can eventually make some money from that. And they can be that person in whatever college they're going to if it's not culinary school. And they can do the cooking while other people are buying, and they can make money doing that.

Ashley Mengwasser: So you literally do feed them for a lifetime, Chef Tiffany.

Chef Tiffany: You do. Yes.

Ashley Mengwasser: Bravo. Our compliments to the chef. I'd hazard a chef's kiss here, but I would butcher the practice. So I'll just say, you deserve all of the Michelin stars.

Chef Tiffany: Thank you.

Ashley Mengwasser: Thank you for being with us today. Thank you so much.

Chef Tiffany: Thank you.

Ashley Mengwasser: Whether you fancy yourself a culinary God or prefer the customer side of the counter, just remember that you're a great teacher. Thanks to Chef Tiffany's guidance, you can measure out some healthy habits for your classroom and make entrees with your intuition for a change. Just be safe out there. I'm Ashley. The Classroom's Conversations Kitchen is officially closed. We'll be back with your weekly serving of Teacher Talk next week. Goodbye for now. Funding for Classroom Conversations is made possible through the School Climate Transformation Grant.