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Going Bananas at School


Bananas Foster, that decadent flaming dessert from New Orleans, and restaurateur-chef Zov Karamardian met their match in each other in South Gate on a recent Friday afternoon. It was in a competition that featured culinary education, teenagers and attention spans.

Teaching class on Friday is always a challenge, especially when the breeze beckons, dismissal is near and elbowing your buddy's ribs or buffing sapphire-blue fingernails is more captivating than learning knife techniques from a guest teacher.

Still, in the Culinary Arts class at South Gate High School, home economics teacher Kim Edmond asserted control early on, and Karamardian, owner of Zov's Bistro in Tustin, held the attention of the class of 30 with a fast-paced delivery, tossing out questions and demanding answers. Several months ago Karamardian and other members of Les Dames d'Escoffier, a culinary society of chefs and others, began volunteering their time to share her expertise with young people at schools and in charitable organizations.

When she asked this particular day for volunteers to chop, dice and mince, most slinked down in their chairs and volunteered neighbors. The role model for the moment was Danny Ortiz. When praised by Karamardian for his knife handling, the 18-year-old shuffled his shoes, shifted his weight and maintained eye contact with the cutting board.

After the chopping demonstration, the instruction moved on to Bananas Foster. Karamardian explained that it is the kind of dessert found in fancy restaurants and that its execution requires several skills, among them safely igniting an alcohol-based liquid. When the rum bottle appeared, the males took notice. When the cap came off, a communal "ahh" rose from one table of muscles and T-shirts.

As she repeated warnings about handling matches and fire safety, necks craned. With a touch of the match, a blue-gold flame shot up from the skillet and Karamardian's act was judged "cool."

But a spokesman for the boys' table passed this judgment: "I'd rather drink it."

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