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CTE Culinary Arts students commandeer cafeteria to show how to make tasty, healthy food from scratch

By Billie Owens

Above, Chef Tracy Burgio, instructor of the Culinary Arts program at the Batavia CTE Center, helps student Jaheim Merritt (Batavia HS) with his meatloaf gravy.

Submitted photos and information from the Genesee Valley Educational Partnership​.

As Chef Tracy Burgio and her Culinary Arts students at the Batavia Career and Technical Education (CTE) Center prepared to take over the building’s cafeteria yesterday, they had a worthy goal in mind. 

“We want to prove that you can make healthy food from scratch,” Chef Burgio said. 

Culinary Arts students normally cook lunch for faculty and staff members on Thursdays. But for yesterday's "takeover," students attending daytime classes at the center were also queued up.

“The kids have such an interest in having good cafeteria food, this project really drives home that message," the chef said.

Buffalo chicken meatloaf, mashed potatoes, grilled zucchini, apple crisp, and biscuits were prepared for them using USDA recipes.

Burgio said she has been interested in taking over the cafeteria for several years, and plans similar events on Jan. 29 and March 11.

She would like to make the partnership between her students and cafeteria staff a normal part of the Culinary Arts curriculum and would also like to incorporate locally grown produce into recipes. 

Jaheim Merritt, a Culinary Arts student and junior from Batavia High School, stood at a stove making gravy for the meatloaf.

“I think making lunch for everyone is a big responsibility, but I think it’s a good idea,” Jaheim said. “A lot of kids complain about our lunches, so we can help make a change.”

Burgio wants to show kids that healthy food can still taste good.

As students went through the lunch line, they learned nutritional facts about each food. For example, zucchini and carrots are high in vitamins A and C, and the Buffalo chicken meatloaf was high in protein and low in fat.

Culinary Arts students and Byron-Bergen High School juniors Isaiah Merrell and Austin Evert were student-leaders during the cafeteria takeover.

“I’m hoping that making lunch from scratch will help inspire the kids in the Academy,” Isaiah said.

Added Austin, “With our lunches, we don’t normally know the nutritional facts. Now we are giving them knowledge and good food.”

Below: Chef Tracy Burgio spoons out gravy during the lunch takeover. 

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