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Veteran restaurant chef works with culinary students

Chef Jeanie Newton holds the strainer while culinary student Ashley Jones, center, pours the white sauce, called bechamel, and Kirdesa Gordon looks on. Newton began working at the Newton College & Career Academy this year.

Chef Jeanie Newton holds the strainer while culinary student Ashley Jones, center, pours the white sauce, called bechamel, and Kirdesa Gordon looks on. Newton began working at the Newton College & Career Academy this year.

COVINGTON -- Culinary students are learning what it's like to work with an actual chef this year.

This school year is the first for Chef Jeanie Newton, who was brought in to work alongside culinary arts instructor Chelsea Hughey at the Newton College & Career Academy.

Newton is a certified chef, a certified pastry chef and a master barbecue cook. She worked as a restaurant chef from 1975 to 2008, when she began teaching at a career center in Macon, where she taught for five years. She also has worked part time for the Art Institute of Atlanta and for the Food Network's cooking classes.

"It's awesome" working with a chef, said senior Ansley Bailey, who also attends Alcovy High School. "I've gotten so many tips, and it's only the fourth week of school."

She said they have learned different type of cuts, how to make various sauces, about kitchen organization and about safety and sanitation, among other topics.

Bailey, who took the introductory culinary class last year, hopes the program will help her become a pastry chef in the future and give her some new recipes to try out on her parents at home. So far, she's cooked for them a stir fry, pork chops and chicken dishes, among others, and they often offer for her to make dinner.

"I'm looking forward to going to college and putting this into a career," said Bailey, who recently began cooking and realized she has a passion for it.

Fellow Alcovy senior Joseph Harrison also hopes to use what he learns in the class to get into the food industry.

"I've wanted to do culinary arts since I was a little kid," he said. "I like the hectic, fast pace environment."

He hopes to attend Johnson & Wales University and eventually be an executive chef or a private chef.

"They're getting hands-on experience with a chef and will know what it's like to work in a restaurant with a chef," Newton said about the students. "It gives them a head start for culinary college or after they are certified, they can work with a chef when they leave here."

More than 200 students are taking 12 classes, including 11 introductory classes and one advanced class. Next year, students in the advanced class who don't graduate this year can move on to the next culinary level.

"The numbers (of students in the program) are higher than we expected," Hughey said. "I think it's really positive that they get the education side from me and also get to work with a professional industry chef."

In the program, students will study ServSafe strategies and can get ServSafe certification and also eventually will be able to become Certified Junior Culinarian after taking an exam.

Beginning next year, the program can attempt to receive industry certification.

Newton encouraged the community and especially local chefs and restaurant owners to come observe how students are working in the kitchen. They can arrange that through her by contacting her at the school or e-mailing her.