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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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Sizzling summer camp teaches culinary teachers

Flame on! Most high school teachers spend the summer relaxing, away from work. That wasn't the case for a group ProStart teachers who spent a week at New Mexico State University, having fun with fiery food while brushing up on industry skills.

High school ProStart teachers take part in a culinary exercise at NMSU. From left: Fama Yazzie, Carleigh Pettenuzzo and Felicia Chavez. (NMSU photo)

"I think it's excellent," said Fama Yazzie, a teacher at Rio Rancho High School. She is one of 11 high school ProStart teachers from around the state who took part in the program at NMSU.

ProStart is a national restaurant industry approved curriculum linked with practical work experiences. It encourages high school students to consider careers in the restaurant and foodservice industry. In New Mexico, there are 39 high schools actively involved in the ProStart Program with more than 1,200 student participants annually.

During the NMSU camp, faculty and staff from the School of Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management covered topics including menu design, food cost control, sanitation and food safety. The course is designed to give teachers new ideas on how to teach lessons and how to use laboratory kitchens.

"Many of these teachers have educational or nutritional backgrounds, but not necessarily professional food preparation backgrounds. That's what we are trying to give them here," said John Hartley, an HRTM assistant professor and a course instructor.

The camp focused on these high school teachers because they have the ability to directly impact whether students will continue studying the field of hospitality management in college.

"These teachers are training the future of our industry, so it's beneficial to offer them this professional development opportunity," said Victor Martinez, a recruiter for NMSU's HRTM program. He said there is a shortage of qualified workers in the hospitality industry.

The course was made possible by a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and put together by NMSU and the New Mexico Restaurant Association's Hospitality Industry Educational Foundation.

"It's all about helping the high schools, giving them more resources," said Priscilla Bloomquist, the project director and associate HRTM professor. "We're trying to create a path from high school to college for students interested in pursuing this field. There's a lot of growth in the hospitality industry in New Mexico and the region."

This was the first such program at NMSU. It is part of NMSU's continuing outreach efforts to help educate and improve the lives of citizens in the community and state. Organizers will put a second summer camp together next year.