Two hours before lunch on Friday, Lauren DeLoach handed out kitchen duties to her culinary arts class at the Floyd D. Johnson Technology Center - soups, salads, grilled chicken, sandwiches.
The newly minted culinary arts students had a couple hours to prepare the lunch menu for teachers and other staff members who had placed orders for their noon meals.
There was chicken to be sliced and grilled, tomatoes, cucumbers and carrots to be chopped, soups and grilled cheese sandwiches to be prepared.
The kitchen was abuzz with activity, and students were full of questions.
"Do we need a regular chopping knife?"
"How do you want the carrots cut?"
"Does every bag get a cornbread?"
"How much milk do you want in this?"
DeLoach, a Johnson & Wales University culinary program graduate, is instructor of the program made possible with facilities built for the new technology center and York Comprehensive High School.
She bustled about the new gleaming professional kitchen unruffled, working and answering questions.
About 60 students have enrolled in the new program, which includes an introductory class of 26 freshman and two classes of Culinary Arts 1, for older students.
Next year, the program also will offer Culinary Arts 2, a more advanced class for students who have completed Culinary Arts 1 and want to continue.
This month, only about two weeks after the school year started, students in the Culinary Arts 1 class were ready to begin preparing and serving a Friday take-out lunch for teachers and other staff members to raise money for the program.
So far, the lunches seem to be a hit among the school staff. Friday's lunch had a line of teachers waiting to pick up their meals.
"I had the potato chowder last week," said teacher Laura Milem. "It was wonderful. It had little pieces of bacon in there."
Tabby Burgess and Casey Garrison, both 17, carefully sliced up the cucumbers and carrots in attractive, uniform sizes with the precision they had learned from the class.
Burgess, a senior, said she wants to go to culinary arts school and be a chef. She learned to cook from her mom and grandmother, she said.
"I watch cooking shows all the time."
Eric Jackson, a 16-year-old junior, views cooking as more of a hobby. But he has worked as a dishwasher and now a cashier for two different restaurants, and he hopes to become trained as a cook.
"I'd rather be a cook than a cashier."
One of the students' first lessons was cutting, which includes knife skills and different types of cuts. They have talked about food health issues like salmonella and have been drilled on proper measuring.
"It's not like home ec - we're not just making grilled cheese," said Ian Baker, a 17-year-old senior. "You come in here and she expects you to know how to make a soup, how to thicken it. How to grill chicken. You have to make sure it looks good."
He said the students learn to make almost everything from scratch - including baked goods like cookies, brownies, cornbread, buttermilk biscuits and dinner rolls.
They're also graded on their leadership in the program and production skills, which includes how well they manage time, listen to directions and how the food they prepare turns out.
Sarah Parker, a 17-year-old junior, said she learned how to make homemade buttermilk biscuits. Like most students, she likes the hands-on opportunities.
"We have our note-taking days, and we have our days when we're in the kitchen the whole time," she said.
Not every recipe turns out as expected, but good cooks learn from their mistakes.
Jeremy Millar, 16, said he baked cookies with too much flour and the bottoms were a little burned. He said he is now careful to measure the ingredients exactly.
Millar also cooks a lot of meals at home.
"Being in the kitchen and all, it feels good, it feels natural," said Millar, who would like to attend culinary school and become a chef.
Ron Roveri, director of the technology center, said he's thrilled with the program's rapid progress.
"I'm really tickled that, at this point this early in the school year, they can take on the responsibility."
Roveri said hands-on learning programs such as culinary arts and others at the center help high school students begin to explore career possibilities while their education is still free.
"They're here to find their passion," he said. "It looks like some of them have found their passion."
DeLoach - who has an undergraduate degree in culinary nutrition and a master's degree in culinary arts education, both from Johnson & Wales in Providence, R.I. - teaches the students what's expected in a commercial kitchen.
Before coming to York, DeLoach worked as a production manager at The Citadel for food service company Aramark,. She was responsible for serving meals to 2,000 cadets three times a day.
She also has worked at a French restaurant, had an internship teaching cooking classes to guests at a Caribbean resort and did student teaching in a high school culinary arts program.
Many of the students don't understand the organizational requirements, the demands and the urgency of commercial meal preparation until they have experienced it, she said.
"It takes a lot to do this, and we only have four items," DeLoach told her students Friday, at the end of their second effort to cater a lunch for the school's teachers. "Next week, I'm going to add more food items. It's going to get harder."
DeLoach has ambitious goals for the program. The Rhode Island culinary arts program in which she did her student teaching served a brunch to the community two days each week.
"I would like to do something like that," she said, although it might take a couple years to get to that point.
The culinary arts program, which includes a classroom/lab area and a commercial kitchen, also has an attached dining area, and DeLoach wants to use it.
Later this year, she said, the York students will learn to make gingerbread houses. And by the end of the course, she said, each of the Culinary I students will be required to complete an individual meal assignment, with an appetizer, entree and dessert.
Ian Baker, who signed up for the class because he thought it might be something he'd want to do, said the students have learned it's not easy.
"It's definitely hard work," he said. "You have to like cooking and you have to follow a recipe. You can't be one of these people who wants to do your own thing."
"But I like cooking, and I'd rather wake up and do something I like to do."