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Food for Thought

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Food for Thought

Senior Jonathan Parham prepared a five-course French meal for French IV students.

One of the most common units for a foreign language class to teach is food; from cooking verbs to the names of ingredients, food is always a big part of learning a foreign language. Usually, classes bring in store-bought food and eat while watching videos about the food, but this year, with the help of senior Jonathan Parham, Patricia Massey’s French IV classes took this to a new level.

Parham, who stopped taking French last year, is in his second year at the Monroe Technology School’s Culinary Arts program. At the program, participants learn cooking techniques, as well as safety and service skills. Knowing this, Massey approached Parham with an idea in Sep.

“We’re always trying to get some real-world experiences for the students, and I thought ‘wow wouldn’t it be cool if we could take them to a French restaurant,’” said Massey. “I said ‘hey can I bounce an idea off you?  After suggesting that Parham prepare a French meal for the students, Massey waited a few months before receiving a “yes.” The meal, which occurred on Feb. 13, would serve as real world French experience for Massey’s students and an experience opportunity for Parham.

To execute the project, Parham worked with ten other culinary arts students. “As we got closer to the luncheon, I figured out days for us to practice, and I found more recipes and different ways that we could do things. There was one recipe that I really liked the ingredients in, and one recipe that I really liked the techniques in, so I just ended up combining the two,” said Parham.

Parham created the entire menu, which consisted of Salade avec crevettes (salad with shrimp), Pain Gougere (bread with cheese), Canard a l’orànge (duck with orange), Gratin dauphinoise (potatoes Gratin), Haricots verts (green beans), and Tarte tatin avec glace (apple tart with ice cream).

“I thought we were going to be in a buffet line, and then they had the 11 students wait on us the minute we walked in the door. I was very surprised,” said Massey. Massey and the 45 French students were at Monroe for about two hours.

Preparation for the meal lasted a few days, involving two students zesting and juicing 30 oranges for the Canard a l’orange. Parham and his team prepped the kitchen, set up the dining room, did all the cooking, waited on the students, and did the cleaning.

“I think it went well; nobody dropped a plate or anything. In the morning when we were setting up, there was a little bit of a hassle in the kitchen, but I went back there and I realized what was going on, and I helped everyone out,” said Parham. Through this experience, Parham gained leadership skills, including how to manage a kitchen.

“Managing isn’t as hard as it comes out to be some days because you don’t have one person who has to do everything; you can delegate and find people who are strong at certain things and pair them up with people who are decent and just find out what everyone’s strengths are,” said Parham.

The experience also helped Parham gain confidence in his cooking, which he has only been doing seriously for a couple of years.

“It was basically my whole thought process and ideas that went into this, so just watching them enjoy my food helps a lot. I’m not a very confident person when it comes to cooking because cooking for yourself and for your family is very different than cooking for people because criticism can always be different and more difficult than you expected,” said Parham.

Though Parham was cooking for people who weren’t his friends or family, he received nothing but praise from Massey and the students.

“It was cool that my French kids were able to see somebody benefitting from the culinary arts program who had been a French student and was able to prepare a whole French meal. They felt like they were at a French restaurant,” said Massey.

As for the future, Parham is graduating and going to Colorado to attend the Johnson and Wales baking and pastry program, but Massey hopes to carry on the tradition for years to come.

“[I want to] make it a tradition for the French IV students because it’s kind of like ‘hey you’ve made it to French IV, here’s your reward.’ They’re also a little more mature; most of them are sophomores, but they’d appreciate the opportunity,” said Massey. “It worked on both ends, in that it was a good French experience for them, and it was a great experience for Jonathan.”

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