Delaware High School cooks up a lunchtime lesson

Maybe it’s our national love for food or perhaps it’s all those cooking reality shows, but students at William Penn High School in New Castle think they have something special.

The students opened the Penn Bistro Café Wednesday. It was part dining experience and mostly their hard work in the William Penn High School Culinary Arts program. That program is aimed at giving students a real life taste of what goes into the preparation, presentation, and final sale of a meal.

Most of the 275 students enrolled in the program want to go on to careers in the field. “I cook all the time at home for my family,” said Mary Ella, an 11th grader at the school. Kip Poole who doubles as instructor and head of the Penn Bistro hopes this will encourage students to go to college and learn more about the field.

There was VIP group dining for the opening of the restaurant consisting of faculty, local legislators, and Colonial School District Board members. Decorations for the restaurant were done by the art and the horticultural departments. Music students serenaded those in attendance.

The program was developed as the result of a student survey asking what kinds of classes they would like to see added to William Penn High School. Overwhelmingly, the answer was culinary. So over the summer federal and district funds were used to construct a state of the art kitchen that debuted with the opening of the restaurant. Students can actually qualify for 4 different certifications when they graduate.

Local companies such as Penn Farms donated food for the program. Poole wants to get to the point where students are growing some of their own food to use for the cooking experience. Some of the money used from the sale of menu items will go towards that.

The restaurant is open Wednesday, Thursday’s, and Friday’s. The inaugural menu had blackened salmon, sweet potatoes, spinach salad, rotini pasta, and pumpkin soup. The students said the menu was inspired by the season.

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