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Budding chefs learn skills in new school program
Chef Terry Haymond helps Grayzielle Sepe mix the ingredients for a cheesecake crust. - photo by Tom Reed
Drew Smith may just be heading to the eighth grade, but she is already taking steps to plan out her future as an adult.

Instead of wasting away on her sofa all summer, the budding chef decided to enroll in a culinary summer camp to further sharpen her cooking skills.

"I used to watch cooking on TV and I love watching my mom in the kitchen - she's a really good cook," said Drew, a Chestatee Middle school student. "I want to own my own bakery or restaurant some day."

Drew was one of about 40 other area middle school students who participated in the camp sponsored by the Hall County school system.

Under the guidance of instructor Terry Haymond and guest chefs from Le Cordon Bleu, the students learned a variety of skills from kitchen safety to using ordinary items to create extraordinary edible art.

"I've always been interested in cooking, so I decided to sign up for the cooking class because I wanted to see if I was any good," said Megan Smith, who just completed eighth grade at Davis Middle School.

"One of the most interesting things that we learned was how to make garnishes out of vegetables. We used things like cucumbers, squash and peppers to make flowers and ducks."

In addition to new skills, the students also added recipes for classic dishes to their budding repertoires.

"We learned how to make this dessert with caramel sauce and bananas - Bananas Foster," said Grayzielle Sepe, a rising ninth-grader. "It was really good, I'd like to try it out at home for my family."

The weeklong culinary camp was one of five themed camps offered by the school system. The career-related camps allowed middle school students to gain insight into various career fields including construction, culinary arts, health care science and hospitality.

The camps were also based out of Lanier Career Academy, which provided students with a sneak peak into the new offerings that will be available when the school reopens in the fall as Lanier Career Charter Academy.

In addition to the traditional high school courses, the charter academy will also give students the opportunity to gain college credit through Lanier Technical College.

"When students graduate from high school, they could not only have their diploma but also a certificate from Lanier Tech - possibly two," said Cindy Blakley, director of secondary education for Hall County schools.

"We have information available for students to create a graduation plan that starts when they enter eighth grade. They can learn what classes they can take in middle school to earn high school credit. The more ahead they can get in middle school, then the more ahead they can get in high school."