THREE OAKS — River Valley CTE Culinary Arts class instructor Melanie Hutchison does her best to make learning how to cook enjoyable.

“I try to make it fun to keep the kids interested. We did a battle of the bowls – they did soup and chili,” she said.

The 2021-22 school year is her first year teaching the two-hour morning class with 18 students, most of them seniors.

Before the holiday break, everyone created their own unique gingerbread houses – which also were to be entered in a competition.

She said some of the students made gingerbread at home over the weekend because they had so much fun doing it in class.

“A lot of the parents have said that the kids have started cooking more at home, that they feel more comfortable doing it – the kitchen’s not scary.”

Hutchison said the culinary class is intended to impart basic skills on students.

“I’m not trying to make you like Gordon Ramsay … I just want to teach you how to not cook with a microwave,” she said.

The portion of River Valley Middle/High School dedicated to the culinary program includes both a regular classroom and an adjacent kitchen area.

“We’ll do book work, look at videos, how to go through the steps, and then apply it in the kitchen,” Hutchison said.

River Valley Culinary Arts students recently obtained their ServSafe certifications, with 100 percent passing the exam. Hutchison said the ServSafe status lasts five years before the exam has to be taken again.

“I told them ‘Even if you’re not interested in food service right now, you’re going to college and you need some extra money fast, that’s the way to go.’”

Hutchison said she is hopeful that people from area restaurants will be able to visit the class before the end of the school year if the COVID situation improves.

She has been in the food service field for about 13 years and has worked with Chef Ted Carrigan, the culinary instructor for the Buchanan Schools.

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