By Samuel Snow
The Virgin Valley High School Culinary class is in its third year and has grown to include a three-year college credit course in which students can graduate with skills to start working.
VVHS teacher and chef Chris Noone said the culinary program started in 2016 because there was a demand in Mesquite for cooks at the Eureka and other properties. The Eureka was the catalyst along with the principal of VVHS, Cliff Hughes, in getting the program started.The Eureka played an important part of the program with donating the supplies needed, and they continue to support the program by providing necessary items for culinary, said Noone.
Gerri Chasko, director of the Eureka Community Initiative, said the Eureka has always felt that a culinary program made sense in Mesquite.
“We met with the new culinary instructor, Chris Noone, and he explained his vision for the program but also added there were no funds available from the district yet,” Chasko said. “We walked the facility at the high school, made notes of what was needed to get it up to code, and arranged for him to stop at our warehouse to pick up whatever foods or items he needed. Piece of cake.”
Noone said the goal is for students to complete all three classes, take the state exam, and receive six college credits.
VVHS culinary student Lizzbeth Martinez is in her second year of the culinary class. She decided to join culinary because she was interested in learning more because she likes being in the kitchen, whether it be cooking or baking . She wanted to see what else she could learn from culinary and the new experiences it would bring. Also, having the class count as a college credit was an added bonus for her.
“What I like most about culinary is it introduces me to new things,” Martinez said. “ I learned things that I didn’t know before, and new foods that I have never heard of or tried. I like how we are put into groups and work together in the kitchen.”
The program is designed to give students workplace readiness skills.
“When you complete culinary you will possess the skills to work after high school,” Noone said. “ Not all students will go to college, so it is important to give students the skill set they need to be employable. College students may want to work part time or during the summer. Most part time jobs available are in the food service industry. This enables college students to use the skills learned to work in the food service industry.”
Noone and his students try to participate in community events, fundraisers and collaborate with the Eureka Hotel and Mesquite Reads. Community groups like the Veterans Club and Elks have used their services also. He said it’s important as a new program to get out in the community and let students have real life experiences in catering and special events.
“As part of our partnership the chef is always ready to help us with our events,” said Chasko. “ We asked them help us out with some appetizers at our Mesquite Reads kickoff earlier this year. Their ravioli appetizer was unbelievable. They made it totally from scratch and it was fabulous. The students are always available to help with catering for other departments in the High School that are fundraising. That’s important for us because it means that the dollars we invested in the culinary program are helping other departments in the school. For us, that’s a mandatory part of a partnership. We are very proud to call them our partners.”
Culinary is something Noone is passionate about and now he enjoys passing his knowledge to young chefs to help them become successful in life. His first students are now in their third year and to watch them progress is a treat for him. He also has job placed students who are doing well, and last year had a student go on to baking and pastry school. It is very fulfilling to start to see the positive results of the program, said Noone.
“I’d like to thank the community, Virgin Valley High, and the Eureka for the support and opportunity to grow this program,” Noone said. “ I’m grateful to the city of Mesquite for making me feel welcome, it truly is a wonderful city.”