As freshman Meghan Cameron delicately dipped a strawberry into
chocolate and twirled it around, "oohs" and "aaahs" emanated through the
Meghan, a student in Janet Dukes' beginning foods class at Newport
Harbor High School, was demonstrating how to make chocolate-covered
strawberries during a lesson on chocolate baskets.
Dukes' beginning food class students were elbow-deep in white and dark
chocolate as part of their end-of-the-quarter project. Although the
baskets looked like something only Martha Stewart could handle, the
recipe was actually not that complex, Dukes said.
"I really like when they can learn something that looks difficult,"
Dukes said. "So many students have made these for all kinds of
The baskets make great gifts for holidays such as Valentine's Day,
Mother's Day and the upcoming winter formal, Dukes added.
Dukes has been teaching culinary arts classes at the school for three
years and has helped the program mushroom from three to five classes.
The beginning foods class, which is mostly freshmen and sophomores,
covers basic skills such as safety and sanitation, measurements and
baking. Students cook breakfasts, lunches, dinners and complete meals.
Dukes also brings in professional chefs and parent volunteers, such as
Hennie Sondel, who taught the chocolate basket lesson.
Sondel, who has been volunteering for the past three years, said the
class is a great opportunity for students who may be thinking about a
career working with food.
"Some of these kids are incredibly artistic, and we've sort of let
them think that nothing will come of them and that's really disturbing,"
Sondel said. "Many of these kids who were failing in school are now
coming to school, they love it."
Sondel demonstrated how to melt the chocolate for the basket, how to
dip the strawberries in the white and dark chocolate to get a "tuxedo"
effect, and how to make a leaf pattern on the chocolate. She told them
not to wash the strawberries, "or else the chocolate won't stick," but
that the leaves should be washed before using them."The nice thing is you
cannot make a mistake," Sondel said.
Sondel said she especially enjoys seeing the macho football players
carrying the chocolate baskets around to give to their formal dates.
Freshman Greg Miner, who assisted for the chocolate basket
demonstration, said he would consider trying the recipe on his own for
his mom's birthday.
"It's cool, kind of hard, but fun," Greg said.
After the demonstration, the students worked in their groups to make
the baskets themselves.
Meghan said she enjoyed the camaraderie in the class that has evolved
from cooking with her friends.
"It's fun. Everybody works together," Meghan said.
* IN THE CLASSROOM is a weekly feature in which Daily Pilot education
writer Deirdre Newman visits a campus in the Newport-Mesa area and writes
about her experience.
The Culinary Arts program received $5,000 from the California
Restaurant Assn. The president of the Orange County chapter is Ed Lee,
chief financial officer of Wahoo's Fish Taco and a graduate of Newport
Harbor High School.
The funds will be used to buy equipment and for field trips, teacher
Janet Dukes said.