Restaurant quality: North Gwinnett upgrades classroom for culinary arts

SUWANEE - The laminate countertops and wooden cabinets in this kitchen have been replaced with stainless steel and commercial equipment.

Remodeled during the summer, North Gwinnett High School's family and consumer sciences classroom now allows students studying culinary arts to learn in an environment that meets industry standards.

"It's giving a direct articulation for students leaving high school to obtain 11 credits at Department of Technical and Adult Education schools," said chef David Ross, a state Department of Education employee and teacher on special assignment.

Exposure to industry-standard equipment, along with a more rigorous curriculum, better prepares students to continue their education or work in culinary arts, Ross said.

Gwinnett County Public Schools spent about $125,000 renovating the classroom, said Jody Reeves, director of technical education, computer science and work-based learning. A grant from the Georgia Department of Education worth about $100,000 was used to purchase the equipment, which includes most of the appliances found in a typical restaurant kitchen.

The classroom has a steam kettle (used for making stocks and soups), a fryer, a commercial mixer, a high-powered blender, and a double-deck convection oven and reach-in cooler and freezer that can all accommodate full sheet pans. There are three ranges with a total of 16 eyes (more commonly called burners) and a small flat-top griddle, three conventional ovens, a ventilation hood equipped with a pressurized fire-suppression system and a four-bay pot sink.

"Our kids need skills as well as a strong academic background," Reeves said, adding that students who study culinary arts can find good jobs, especially in metro Atlanta.

The school district is conducting a feasibility study to see if classrooms at Berkmar and Meadowcreek high schools can also be renovated, Reeves said.