Parry Sound High School (PSHS) students’ culinary prowess was on full display at a dinner they hosted on March 8 for stakeholders and community partners.
The seventh annual dinner is part of PSHS’s Specialist High Skills Major (SHSM) hospitality and tourism program.
“This unique opportunity provided students with the chance to impress businesses in the area and develop co-op and employment opportunities through showcasing their skills,” SHSM coordinator Lisa Spencer said. “SHSM programs in Parry Sound are nurtured by teachers who have connections to particular sectors and businesses in the area. They work very closely with local businesses to develop partnerships.”
Spencer went on to note that more than 50 per cent of students who are enrolled in a SHSM continue on in that same sector pathway once they graduate high school. Parry Sound area hospitality and tourism SHSM programs have a very high employment rate in that particular sector.
The students also used the evening as practice for an upcoming Skills Canada culinary competition. Skills Canada partners with NNDSB, other educators, employers, labour groups and governments to promote skilled trade and technology careers to Canadian youth.
Students from across Ontario compete in Skills Canada competitions to show off their abilities in a variety of skilled trades. PSHS hospitality and tourism, automotive and welding students will all be competing in qualifying competitions on April 1.
“All the food in the dinner preparation was under the direction of Senior Student Chef Lily Stiles, working with her crew of 10 culinary SHSM students. The menu was completely prepared in the PSHS kitchen,” PSHS hospitality and culinary teacher Blair Cousins said.
Dinner guests were treated to a variety of mocktails and hors d’ oeuvres to start the evening and for the main course guests were served minestrone soup, a delicious cheeseburger with side salad and a brownie plate for dessert.
Stiles said, “It was challenging plating 45 tossed salads with all the different components and while I have been practicing the hamburgers, ensuring all the students were keeping it consistent and preparing the plates for people with allergies did mix us up for a few minutes”.
Among the honoured guests were Near North District School Board (NNDSB) Chair Erika Lougheed, Vice-Chair Howard Wesley and Director of Education Craig Myles.
“The PSHS hospitality and tourism dinner was a great night out and the food was truly amazing,” Chair Lougheed said. “It was great to see students showcase all that they have learned and extremely gratifying to see how experiential learning is providing students with valuable skills for life after secondary school.”
Other guests included Parry Sound area farmers, restaurant owners and chefs, hospitality business owners, and former students who have continued in the industry.
Board Vice-Chair Wesley said, “I enjoyed the dinner prepared by Parry Sound High School’s hospitality students. Mr. Cousins continues to advocate and dedicate his time to bring opportunities to his incredible students where they can showcase their hospitality and culinary abilities. The entire program and school staff continue to demonstrate a high level of professionalism.”
Preparations for the dinner began in January and students have been working on perfecting the menu for weeks in advance. During the event, students occupied a variety of roles in addition to preparing the food. Students interacted with guests, set tables and served entrees.
Cousins said, “The feedback from the guests was overwhelmingly positive and there was really strong support for the flavours that were presented. These meals are a unique opportunity for our students to interact with people who are in the industry while learning the skills required to prepare a catering event.”