Culinary kids gets cooking for charity

By: 
Nov. 20, 2012

The state-champion Seabreeze High School Culinary Academy made and sold pies and side dishes for needy families this Thanksgiving.

BY MATT MENCARINI | STAFF WRITER

The Culinary Academy classroom at Seabreeze High School has all of the buzz and activity of a professional kitchen during a dinner rush 10 a.m. Tuesday, as students work to make roughly 250 pies for a Thanksgiving charity drive.

The academy, run by Chef Dana Beninati, has more work ahead of it, though.

As a holiday drive, and program fundraiser, the academy sold pies and side dishes to Seabreeze faculty, staff and parents for $10 a pop.

For each pie or side sold, the students agreed to donate one to the Seabreeze Needy Families Fund, or to a local church.

Beninati said she was expecting to sell 100 pies, but after the class' sales topped 200, she knew her students had their work cut out for them.

Students in the culinary academy spend four years with each other and must be accepted as freshmen. Throughout their time in the program, they learn, as Beninati says, how to run a small business.

The students worked out intricate production cost breakdowns for the pies, which they make from scratch and will deliver by hand.

The academy also operates the Crab Cafe, which makes and delivers box lunches to faculty, staff and students, in addition to managing the dining area. The cafe is run and staffed by students, and the money it raises fund the program's day-to-day costs.

Proceeds from the pie fundraiser go to the booster fund, which will be evenly split as scholarships among the graduating seniors, who reach 75 service hours and meet other requirements.

Some of the students, like Corey Martin, who graduated last year and was the head chef of the program's competition team, will continue on to culinary school.

Martin and three others won a state title and an invitation to a national competition last year. This year’s competition teams are already preparing for the preliminary competition in January, and the state competition in March.

For Martin, she will attend Johnson & Wales University College of Culinary Arts, in large part, she says, due to Beninati's influence.

On this particular day, she's returned to the academy to help Beninati and the class reach deadline.

The academy competes in four categories: management, edible centerpiece, gourmet hot food competition and waiters relay.

Two of the students, Sophia Ulloa and Chelsea Padgett, will compete in the management competition, presenting a business plan for Day Bung, a Central Vietnamese themed restaurant.

Ulloa and Padgett will do everything from estimate finances, set a menu, design the restaurant layout and pick furniture styles.