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These students are preparing boxed lunches from scratch for dragon boat athletes
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Laila Young, a student at Lanier College and Career Academy, prepares meals for athletes and coaches at the ICF Dragon Boat World Championship on Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018. - photo by Austin Steele

When Chris Mitas was asked about providing food for the athletes, coaches, judges and volunteers at the International Canoe Federation World Dragon Boat Championship, he didn’t have to think about it. 

As a culinary instructor at Lanier College & Career Academy, he knew his high school students were ready.

They’re preparing boxed lunches through Sept. 16 at the school off Atlanta Highway near Oakwood. But these boxes are filled with more than the average turkey sub; they’re more along the lines of a pork banh mi sandwich or a roast beef sandwich with horseradish mayonnaise on fresh-baked brioche buns, for example. 

Everything is made from scratch. They trim the fat from the meats and marinate, roast or grill. Toppings and sides are made and packed into the small, brown boxes, and 15-20 students deliver them to the Lake Lanier Olympic Venue off Clarks Bridge Road.

When the students do restaurant service for Bistro at the Oaks, LCCA’s on-campus restaurant, they put out eight-course meals. So, 500 boxed lunches each day were no problem.

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Eliud Guzman, left, and Lupita Barrera, right, of Lanier College and Career Academy refrigerate prepared meals for athletes and coaches at the ICF Dragon Boat World Championship on Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018. - photo by Austin Steele

“The kids have been awesome,” Mitas said. “A lot of schools think about teach, teach, teach and then we’re going to do the projects. … With this, it’s like going to the field trip before you learn the project.”

One of the unique things about catering an event so large is each item is made in bulk as opposed to individual plates based on what someone orders. 

Senior Grayson Baker said he enjoys that a little more because once he and everyone else learns their one job, everything else goes smoothly.

“Cooking is definitely not for someone who is just looking for a lucrative job or just wants a way to get money,” Baker said. “You have to actually have a passion. It’s very stressful, and if it’s not something you truly love to do, it’s not for you.”

The significance of the event and the importance of the meals aren’t lost on the students. They understand they are providing food to people who have come to Gainesville from around the globe, including teams from Armenia, Canada, Japan, Italy, Russia, Ukraine and the Philippines, among others.

Making sure they are happy with their lunch and have a good experience is the most important part of what they’re doing, so they all work together in the kitchen to make that happen.

“It just feels like another day almost,” said Josh Johnston, a senior at the school. “But I also feel honored because it’s a big event and they chose not a professional, they chose a bunch of high schoolers and we make it good.”