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VALLEY ROUNDUP | North Hills

Students Cook Meal for St. Patrick's Day

March 18, 2000|INDRANEEL SUR

After squishing a mixture of softened bread crumbs, peas, onions and spices into a slice of baked zucchini, Monica Virula, a junior at James Monroe High School, admired her handiwork.

"It's a good learning experience," said Monica, 16, as she prepared to stuff another courgette, a gourmet Irish appetizer. "You get to learn a lot of different tastes and dishes from around the world."

Monica and nearly 50 other cooking students prepared and served a St. Patrick's Day feast Friday to teachers and Los Angeles Unified School District officials. The fifth annual event allowed Monroe culinary arts students to showcase what they have learned at one of the district's best-equipped teaching kitchens.

Green and white balloons floated to the ceiling in the small dining room at Monroe. Students wore stickers and plastic hats over their hairnets to mark the occasion.

During the year, nearly 170 students in grades 10 through 12 take cooking classes at Monroe, said culinary teacher Eleanor Schuster. Many program graduates go on to food preparation careers or further study in college, she said.

The menu included whole wheat soda bread, roast chicken, corned beef with cabbage and apple pies with custard for dessert, all prepared by students Thursday and Friday.

Monroe's culinary art students combine work in several subjects with their lessons from the cookbook. While learning to make gourmet Irish dishes, students completed research projects on aspects of Irish history and culture, including the potato famine that left millions dead in the 1840s and 1850s.

Carlos Corvera, 16, and Eliasar Almanza, 17, fidgeted for several minutes with a food processor cover before discovering they had put it on backward, proving that the aspiring chefs still have a few kitchen tricks to master.

"We're still working on that part," Eliasar said. After they got it right, the two students mixed flour, baking powder, salt and buttermilk to make dough for bacon scones.

"It's hard work," said Valerie Rosales, 17, as she sprinkled diced tomatoes over bowls of shrimp salad with romaine lettuce. "But it pays off at the end, when you actually prepare a great meal that everyone can enjoy."

Valerie is one of five San Fernando High School students who take cooking classes at Monroe.

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