Niles students cook up Thanksgiving meal for area seniors

Leader photo/CRAIG HAUPERT Niles High School culinary arts students, on the left, serve guests Wednesday at the Greater Niles Senior Center.

Leader photo/CRAIG HAUPERT
Niles High School culinary arts students, on the left, serve guests Wednesday at the Greater Niles Senior Center.

When guests say the only thing better than the food is the service, it makes for a good meal.

Culinary arts students from Niles High School garnered rave reviews for a Thanksgiving meal served to local seniors Wednesday morning at the Greater Niles Senior Center.

“It looks good, it smells good and what I’ve had so far tastes good,” said Eleanor Parker, who regularly eats lunch at the senior center. “The group serving it is extremely friendly and doing an excellent job.”

Approximately 30 students in grades 10th through 12th split into groups to either prepare, cook, serve or wait on the dozens of guests packed into the senior center’s eating area.

Culinary arts instructor Jayson Zoll said the students have been preparing for this day since last Thursday.

“Writing a menu, planning, preparing, putting together a grocery list — it took some time,” he said. “It’s also an opportunity for them to show leadership during a community-based event. Students have taken charge of this whole function, from cooking to serving to plating to everything. We (teachers) are just here to help guide them.”

In addition to giving students practical food service experience, Zoll said the meal also served as a great way for the program to give back to a community that has shown great support for the school over the years.

Zoll said the culinary arts program has been a recipient of multiple grants from the Niles Education Foundation, allowing them to purchase uniforms and hot boxes.

“We’ve been very fortunate in receiving grants and having community support and so this is our way to say thank you,” he said.

The lunch featured butternut squash bisque, cornbread stuffing, glazed carrots, green beans, roasted turkey and a pumpkin roll for dessert.

The meal even gained the approval of one of the senior center’s cooks, Debbie Verhostra.

“It’s very good — the flavor, the texture,” she said. “The carrots are cooked perfectly and the stuffing is awesome with mushrooms in it. Mmmm.”

Students arrived at the senior center around 10 a.m. to prepare the meal in time for lunch at 11:30 a.m.

“We had a small prep space and we had to get everything ready early this morning, but we were able to pull it through,” said sophomore Khloe Pierce. “I like how we were able to come together and get everything ready and keep everything under control in the environment that we are in.

“I also think it is cool that we are able to [help the community] and that everyone had a great attitude.”

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