Tasty Morsels: Foresthill High students roll out kitchen skills

By: Susie Iventosch
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One morning a few weeks back, I had the singular pleasure of visiting James Graham's Creative Foods class at Foresthill High School. The class, for juniors and seniors only, meets daily at 7:30 a.m. On Mondays, the students watch cooking videos and read cookbooks, but Tuesday through Friday they roll up their sleeves and cook. Graham says the kids especially love to make breakfast (perhaps it's the 7:30 a.m. bell?) and one day early in the semester, they learned how to make pancakes and maple syrup … from scratch! The day I visited, the class made chocolate roulades, which, as several of the kids suggested, looked like giant Hostess Ho Hos, but tasted ever so much better! The chocolate soufflé called for whipped egg whites, so what did the kids do with the yolks? They scrambled them with cheese, of course, for a quick snack. Nothing goes to waste around these high school kids! In their brand-new professional kitchen , students develop an understanding of food safety, learn to read recipes and how to prepare (and eat) a multitude of dishes from buttermilk biscuits, to shepherd's pie, pork cutlets with panko, béchamel sauce and Asian dim sum dipping sauce to white layer cake with chocolate ganache frosting. And, they seem genuinely excited to implement new cooking techniques. Johanna Murazzo, a senior this year, loves to cook at home, but she mostly makes Asian food, and she especially likes to make and eat sushi. In this class she's learning to make many different kinds dishes. Senior Savannah Kotalik wants to be an engineer or a journalist, but she's not counting out the possibility of owning a bakery someday with her mom. "She'd be the baker, and I'd run the business!" she noted. Kotalik has three boys on her cooking team. One of those boys, senior Tyler Grunigen, said, "We just do what Savannah tells us to do. I do cook at home, mostly steak, rice and veggies. Being a chef is one career I've thought about." Though Graham's Creative Foods class leads directly to the 49er R.O.P Culinary Arts program for those students interested in this field, his primary goal is to teach kids life skills on basic cooking. "Most of these kids have never cooked before because mom and dad do it for them," he said. "When we were young we didn't have classes like this. Even though we do everything from scratch here, I don't expect them to always do that – but they will be able to save money if they do. They learn how foods go together, proper use of knives, understanding different cuts of meats and veggies, and a variety of cooking methods." Prior to becoming a teacher, Graham worked for the Great Chefs Series at Mondavi Vineyards where he met world-renowned chefs like Julia Child, Wolfgang Puck and Martha Stewart. But so far, only one of Graham's students, Josh Wilburn, has applied to the Culinary Institute of America and plans to pursue culinary arts as a career. Honestly, some kids just thought it would just be an easy, kick-back class for senior year. "I was just hoping to have fun in an easy class," said Drew Bentley. "Now, I can make biscuits and gravy and can cook breakfast. And if I move out, I'll be able to make meals!" According to his wife Arlene, James has done an outstanding job of starting this program. "Foresthill High School Principal Sue Lunsford and District Superintendent Bart O'Brien have been incredibly supportive," Arlene mentioned. "They researched other high school culinary programs for ideas and tips on starting a new program." James often shops at local grocery outlets, PlacerGrown and farmers' markets to reduce supply costs, and occasionally parents and teachers send in donations of items. Jacques' Chocolate Roulade (Adapted from Jacques Pepin for Foresthill High School's Creative Foods class) Chocolate Soufflé (for cake) 1 cup heavy cream 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped into small pieces 7 egg whites, at room temperature 2 tablespoons granulated sugar Crème Chantilly filling 1 cup heavy cream, well chilled 1½ tablespoons granulated sugar ½ teaspoon vanilla extract Garnish Powdered sugar Cocoa powder Assembly 1 tablespoons butter for pan and parchment 1 tablespoon or so unsweetened cocoa powder Line an 11x17-inch jelly roll pan with baking parchment paper. Lightly butter paper to keep soufflé from sticking. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Directions for Soufflé Heat the cream to a simmer in a medium saucepan. Add the chocolate pieces all at once, lower heat and stir briskly with a small wire whisk to melt the chocolate thoroughly. When chocolate is completely smooth and a uniform dark color, remove from the heat and let cool for a few minutes. Meanwhile, whip egg whites and 2 tablespoons sugar either by hand or with an electric mixer to stiff peaks and glossy. Don't allow them to become dry or grainy-looking. Scoop one quarter of the beaten whites into the chocolate mixture and stir briefly with a wire whisk to blend. Pour this mixture back onto the remaining egg whites in the bowl and gently fold together with a rubber spatula. Work quickly, breaking up any lumps of egg white until chocolate mixture is thoroughly incorporated. Pour batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly with a rubber spatula. Place the pan on the middle rack of the pre-heated oven and bake for 10-12 minutes. When done, the cake should be nicely set and puffy. Transfer pan from the oven to a wire cooking rack and allow the cake to cool in the pan to room temperature. Meanwhile, whip the cream with the sugar and vanilla to make the filling. To remove cake, lift the parchment from the pan and set it on a flat work surface with the long side facing you. Using a fine-meshed sieve, lightly dust the cake with the cocoa powder. Then spread the whipped cream (Chantilly) over the entire surface of the cake. Roll, beginning with long end, away from you and slowly peel the parchment paper from cake. Continue to roll into a log, using the parchment as a guide. When fully rolled, discard parchment paper. Refrigerate cake for several hours, or until ready to serve. Slice into ¾ to one-inch slices and drizzle raspberry sauce over, or under, or both! Raspberry Sauce for Roulade 1 package (10 ounces) frozen raspberries in syrup, thawed, but not drained 2 tablespoons sugar 2 teaspoons cornstarch 1/2 cup water 2 to 3 tablespoons raspberry jam (pectin in jam helps thicken and makes sauce shiny) 1. In 1-1/2-quart saucepan, mix sugar and cornstarch 2. Stir in water and thawed raspberries. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens and boils. Add two to three tablespoons of raspberry jam to berry sauce to make sauce shiny and continue boiling another 1 to 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. 3. For a clear, seedless sauce, strain the berry sauce through a fine strainer to remove the raspberry seeds, pressing the berries against the screen with a spoon or spatula to extract the clear sauce. 4. For presentation, swirl a small amount of the raspberry sauce on the plate first, then top with a slice of the roulade. For extra pizzazz, add a small dollop of whipped cream on top of the roulade with a sprig of mint. Susie can be reached at