Cooking up a stormdeveloper
If the proof is in the pudding, as the adage says, then something delicious must be happening in the kitchens of Trinity’s food technology centre.
Families might get the odd taste of students’ culinary creations, but that seems to be the exception rather than the rule.
Most of the produce doesn’t make it beyond the School gates – it is devoured on site by its hungry makers.
A recent Year 10 class mastering the intricacies of lemon myrtle cheesecake provided a good example; by lunchtime the students were lining up to savour the fruits of their morning labours.
The food tech experience amply demonstrates that boys are no longer strangers to kitchens, as they often were in generations past.
The kitchen is now a place of gender equality, teachers say, as boys show that they, too, can turn their hand to all things food – not just its preparation and enjoyment but to issues of nutrition, diet, sustainability, food supply and scarcity.
Their endeavours can equip them for a career in hospitality, if they wish, or at the very least furnish them with practical, day-to-day capabilities.
“That’s how I teach it – as an opportunity for boys to develop life skills, not necessarily as planning for a food career,” said secondary TAS teacher Nadia Nero.
“I want boys to emerge from Trinity with an appreciation of food, confidence in the kitchen, the independence to be able to cook for themselves and an ability to make good food choices.
“I also want to develop their sensory vocabulary when describing how food looks and tastes.
“They work in teams so they also develop skills of collaboration, which are transferrable in the workplace,” she said.
“They get experience in conflict resolution, too, because things don’t always go to plan, and partners don’t always see eye to eye. How do they resolve that?
“And there’s an opportunity for self-expression, in creating and developing concepts.”
One example was a project designing a mobile food truck and creating a menu for it.
Students learn about many food issues, such as nutrition, food equity – the amount of food available around the world and the amount wasted – and food ethics, including composting, growing their own herbs and reusing food by making stock from left-over vegetables.
“They are taught to be sustainable consumers and to value the time and effort that goes into producing food,” she said, adding that food technology was probably more popular at Trinity than at some girls’ schools.
“Boys want to know how to cook, and they’re happy to experiment and introduce their own ideas.
“I love the way they try different things. I think boys learn more from hands-on experience, knowing that it’s OK to make mistakes.”
Students are given barista training at an onsite café, and in Year 11 gain valuable experience in work placements at hotels and restaurants.
This helps them when seeking employment in the hospitality industry after their school days, according to Food Technology support staff Judy Martin.
“No matter whether they are travelling or studying at TAFE or University, if they have hospitality experience it gives them an edge in getting jobs as baristas, kitchen hands or casual workers,” she said.
“Some might go on to become chefs but cooking for themselves gives them independence.
“Cooking for family and friends brings people together. If you can cook, your mates will always come over for a free meal.”
Food tech also involves cleaning up, and in an age of dishwashers, Uber Eats, and meals prepared by parents, more than one new student has picked up a plug for the kitchen sink and asked: “What’s this?”
Feedback at parent teacher nights indicates that many students are responding to encouragement to try their school recipes at home.
One student served up a three-course meal for his family, but that’s an exception.
Parents report they are impressed by their sons’ efforts, but the most appreciative diners appear to be the boys themselves, especially after they prepare a hot lunch in class.
“I’ll remind them, ‘Don’t bring lunch tomorrow, we’re making sausage rolls’,” said Nadia.
“They love it.”