Eastside feasts on culinary lessons


Master Chef Arnym Solomon, center, cracks a joke with students Jonneshia Pride, clockwise from left, Terrance Mitchell and Charles Robinson as he shows them how to prepare a cream of scallion soup at the Eastside High School Institute of Culinary Arts.

TRICIA COYNE/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Saturday, January 26, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 26, 2008 at 12:20 a.m.

Eastside High School's Institute of Culinary Arts drew four of the 56 master chefs in the world Thursday.

For a full day, the four chefs taught, corrected, demonstrated, explained and then ate the class projects alongside their teenage students.

"I got my start in a vocational high school in New York," said master chef Noble Masi, whose career includes 36 years teaching at the Culinary Institute of America.

This week's visit was Masi's second trip to Eastside, a school he said he was "very happy to come back to. The students here are ready to learn."

Masi, who wrote a book used worldwide on the fundamentals of baking and has taught at least 30,000 students how to bake, spent Thursday morning coaching 15- and 16-year-olds through the preparation of a pastry often stuffed with a creme or fruit filling.

On the other side of the high school's teaching kitchen, master chef Arnym P. Solomon was watching as a group of students followed his demonstrations and instructions on how to prepare a Caribbean seafood broth known as Calloloo soup.

"This is one of the better-equipped places I've been," said Solomon, who like the three other master chefs, has taught at all levels around the world. "We are here today because we are educators - we want to teach. We also want to get them (students) out of their comfort zone."

Billie DeNunzio, director of Eastside's program, credits networking while she was taking classes at the Culinary Institute in Hyde Park, N.Y. with getting the four master chefs to Gainesville. DeNunzio credits the chefs with motivating her students.

"Usually a master chef will come in, do a demonstration and that's it," DeNunzio said. "Having four of them here at once is really unheard of, and having them working side-by-side with our students is kicking things up a whole bunch of notches for these kids."

The master chefs said they were getting something out of the visit as well - attention to the lesson they are teaching.

"These aspiring culinarians compare very well to others," said master chef Anton Flory.

He was the first master chef and served as manager for the 1988 Culinary Olympic team that competed in Frankfurt, Germany and brought home the most medals any team has ever won - 19 gold, one silver and one bronze.

"Here they listen and they are not afraid to come forward and to try what we are teaching," Flory said.

The students viewed the visit as more than a chance to improve technique and broaden their knowledge base.

"This is a time when we can advance our palates with different types of ingredients," said Noam Bilitzer, a first-year, ninth-grade culinary student.

For lunch, the students and chefs shared caramelized sea bass and glazed chipolino onions with cranberry compote in an orange and fennel court bouillon that had been garnished with a garlic crouton.

Master chef Frederic "Fritz" Sonneschmidt offered students working with him some advice.

"If you don't have a passion for cooking, you are in the wrong industry," Sonneschmidt said.

Kane Ahern, a senior and third-year culinary student, said his passion for the industry has grown as he advanced through the program.

"At first I was not really into this. I just wanted to give it a try," Ahern said. "Then I realized that this was upbeat and fast-paced, and as I got more skills my passion for cooking just kept growing.

"Now I realize that not many kids get to meet even one master chef and we have four here who want to work with us. This has been great."

Karen Voyles can be reached at 352-359-5656 or kvoyles@gmail.com.

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