Bay View High School preps student chefs
December 1, 2016
By Sheila Julson
On a recent November morning a group Bay View High School students donned in chef coats enthusiastically prepared collard greens, turkey giblet gravy, and whipped cream. They were working under the guidance and direction of ProStart teacher Annmarie Sims and chef mentors Dane Baldwin and Jarvis Williams.
ProStart, new to Bay View this academic year, is a two-year program with a curriculum designed to prepare students for culinary arts and hospitality careers.
Bay View is one of four MPS high schools participating in the pilot. The other three are Washington, James Madison, and Vincent. The nationwide program was developed by the National Restaurant Association Education Foundation in 1997.
Isiah Wright, a junior, watched Chef Baldwin demonstrate making turkey giblet gravy. Wright said he was always interested in his family’s Southern cooking traditions. He had heard his grandmother talk about the ProStart culinary arts program, and when he heard it was coming to Bay View, he signed up.
“It gives you a brighter eye about being in the kitchen, especially regarding safety and other regulations,” Wright said. “I learned a couple of things that I would have done are wrong because of the safety hazards. I brought those skills home and helped my mom become safer in the kitchen.”
Michael Kinjorski, also a junior, has been cooking since he was seven years old. Now he cooks dinner for his family and said that he has always wanted to open a restaurant. “We learn a lot about knife cuts and safety that I didn’t know about,” he said. “The class made me more comfortable working with knives because I was worried about cutting myself.”
ProStart operates in over 100 high schools throughout Wisconsin and has been in existence for 19 years, according to the Wisconsin Restaurant Association Education Foundation.
Bartolotta Restaurants was an instrumental partner in establishing ProStart in a workforce development format for MPS. Husband and wife team Jennifer and Joe Bartolotta, owners of The Bartolotta Restaurants group, are enthusiastic supporters of urban education.
Other partners include SURG Restaurant Group, Hospitality Democracy, Honeypie, and the nonprofit Arts@Large.
Program funding is provided by Milwaukee Public Schools. Bartolotta Restaurants sponsored a fundraising gala this past September at Discovery World, said MPS communications spokesperson Amy Kant. Jennifer Bartolotta said that $307,000 was raised at that gala to implement ProStart at MPS and that some of those funds will also pay for the cost of establishing an authentic restaurant-style commercial station in each one of the schools.
The district originally borrowed money to get ProStart rolling, Bartolotta said. A portion of the gala funds was also applied to repaying that loan.
The district and its partners also worked with Colder’s Furniture to acquire new refrigerators and stoves at a discounted rate. Milwaukee-based Boelter food service and equipment company donated chef’s knives, cutting boards, graters, sifters, and Vitamix blenders. Bartolotta said, “We gave them an order for about $150,000, and they sold it to the district for $49,000.”
Mentors Make It Happen
ProStart curriculum includes both textbook and hands-on lab instruction. Chef Baldwin works at Mr. B’s Steakhouse, part of the Bartolotta restaurant group. He grew up in Milwaukee and through the Chapter 220 program, an MPS program that promoted school integration, Dane attended Whitefish Bay High School. After working as a cook, Baldwin decided to pursue a career as a chef. Now he wants to share his knowledge with others, and he’s seen enthusiasm for the program grow. “You can see a graduated interest every week and it has spiked,” Baldwin observed.
Jarvis Williams is a corporate chef with SURG. He’s been with the restaurant group for 10 years, and he’s also a Bay View alum, Class of 1999. Since the program began, he’s seen the students become creative and not only prepare foods they like, but also try different foods and various ways to present the foods.
Williams said students made coleslaw and miniature sliders. “The students have ideas about what to cook or have been exposed to things at home,” he said, “They come from different cultures and backgrounds and have different ways to prepare food and bring it to the table.” He said they enjoy eating what they prepare.
Sims comes from a cooking family. She has worked in customer service and business, volunteered with her church for a hospitality team, and operated her own cake baking business. She also taught an adult version of ProStart Culinary & Job Readiness Program through HeartLove Place. Sims enjoys working with teens and seeing their engagement in the program. “It piques their interest and gets them thinking more positively about their future,” she said.
Some recipes used for the ProStart cooking labs are traditional but with a healthier twist. Sims says they use no pork when preparing greens. Instead, they use herbs and garlic for flavor. Sims, Baldwin, and Williams also alter recipes and class structure to accommodate food allergies.
Team Atmosphere Emphasized
ProStart classes draw students with diverse interests — academics, sports, and arts, including football players and cheerleaders. But in ProStart classes, Sims says everyone is equal and there’s no special treatment for popular students. There are four students on each team. Each team member rotates through four different positions — head chef, sanitation chef, organization chef, and assistant chef.
Sandra Peterson, Bay View High School principal, said the students love working with Baldwin and Williams. Recently the students prepared appetizers and mini desserts that were served at a community meeting. “I was so proud of them,” Peterson said, “They were so professional in their presentation of the hors d’oeuvres.”
There is a waiting list for ProStart and many other students have already expressed their interest in signing up with their guidance counselors.
Arts@Large has been working with kids in ninth and tenth grades, exposing them to culinary arts through a partnership with Honeypie, Peterson said.
Jennifer Bartolotta helps with the ProStart classes and spends time at each of the four MPS high schools where the program is offered. “After two years working with these chefs, these students will have the skills to walk into any restaurant in the city of Milwaukee, including our Bacchus or Sanford, on day one as an entry level prep cook,” she said. “That’s what Chef Baldwin and Chef Williams are bringing to this program. [If the] students decide if they want to do this as a career, we’ve positioned them to be successful on day one. We want our kids to enter up the ladder.”
ProStart students who successfully complete the program can earn up to 10 credits toward graduation in Milwaukee Area Technical College’s culinary arts program.
Sheila Julson is a regular contributor to the Bay View Compass.
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