Thursday, December 3, 2015

SF students learn cooking and history all in one lesson

By Laura Dudnick | S.F. Examiner

Photo: Mike Koozmin, S.F. Examiner

18-year-old Frankie Pena holds a container of Oysters Rockefeller stuffing as he walks out of the refrigeration unit at the John O'Connell High School O’Connell Culinary Arts program, Tuesday, November 24, 2015.
Former longtime chef and owner of renowned Financial District Italian restaurant Palio d’Asti Daniel Scherotter stood at the front of the kitchen as he handed out advice to the 17 budding cooks preparing a Thanksgiving feast around him.

“I have the butter, so now you said to strain it?” one asked.

“Take out the leaves and pour the butter all over the Brussel sprouts,” Scherotter replied.

Another came up to him: “For the oysters, do you want me to put the meat inside the shell now?”

Without missing a beat, the chef responded: “Did you already put the cheese in the [filling]? Get the Parmesan cheese and get the bread crumbs.”

A third cook held up a dish with sweet potatoes and questioned: “Where do the onions come into play with this?”

Unfazed, Scherotter laughed and said, “It’s your recipe.”

Such was the buzzing activity just hours before high school students at John O’Connell High School on Tuesday served the school’s roughly 70 faculty and staff a feast of the culinary arts and entrepreneurship class’s own take on Thanksgiving.

The menu, a mix of traditional dishes like turkey and mashed potatoes but with a unique kick, serves as a lesson in and of itself, Scherotter explained. Items like Native American corn pudding, tropical basmati rice and Thai butternut squash soup were selected after students researched the faculty’s flavor preferences to teach them about business.

“After studying what Thanksgiving was and how it evolved over time, they did a marketing study of the faculty and looked at what was trending in the culinary world and decided they wanted to do a locally oriented Thanksgiving meal, but with flavors of the Pacific Rim,” Scherotter said.

In the four years since he quit the full-time restaurant business to become a high school teacher, Scherotter has helped to redefine the way students in San Francisco are taught social studies: by aligning cooking with history lessons and entrepreneurship. The class meets five days a week and is co-taught with a social studies teacher. Students spend 25 percent of that time in a restaurant-quality kitchen adjoined to a regular classroom.


Read more at www.sfusd.edu

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