Hartford Area Career & Technology Center
I am a junior at Woodstock Union High School named Luc Issa and I currently attend the Culinary Arts program at the HACTC. As a struggling sophomore looking for guidance, I decided to attend the HACTC presentation at our school where I kept hearing the words “hands-on” over and over again. This idea sounded beautiful to me, like a humming bird singing softly, like a perfect match for me.
My favorite memory growing up as a kid is playing sports with my dad in the summertime, especially when we played football. Throughout my life I’ve always been the kid who loves recess, playing sports, and always having energy. Those are the things I excelled in growing up, so being stuck in class all day didn’t really work out too great. For me juggling seven classes was hard, even though it can be done and made to look easy, but I guess I’m just different.
Several weeks after the HACTC presentation, there was a trip to school and each person was going to be brought to our top three class interests. After going to Natural Resources, and Media Arts and Design, I felt a little let down because I felt like none of those classes really fueled my soul and passions. Once I stepped into the Culinary classroom it immediately felt like home. The Chef was super upbeat and enthusiastic, all of the kids looked focused and you could tell that they really wanted to learn. Everyone constantly had something to do in the kitchen and it seemed like you could really get into a rhythm, which I like because it helps a kid like me to be focused.
The first couple weeks of school were a little overwhelming to say the least. We were greeted by a list of rules that could go on forever along with safety and sanitation requirements that we would have to meet throughout the year. Once we got past the “boring” but important criteria is when all of the shyness went away and when we finally got to do what we all came here for, cooking! We started with knife skills which was very laid back, you could tell that our Chef really wanted us to take our time to make sure that we were executing our cuts perfectly (also so we didn’t cut our fingers off). Soon after we learned all of the basics to cooking, such as what a mirepoix is and mise en place, we were taught about every piece of equipment and its purpose. When Chef felt like we were all pretty comfortable working in the kitchen, we opened our restaurant (The Get Away) to the public! The first time we opened was very exciting to me because it made the day soar by, from working on the fryolator to serving people in the dining room. Every week that we are open we have a new job and that helps us learn how to use each piece equipment properly and comfortably. So far I have learned the basics to many things, such as baking, sauteing, soups and stocks. I am very excited for all of the new things we are going to learn soon, especially with the amazing groups of kids I have the pleasure to work with everyday! Being in this program has really given me an appreciation for cooking that I never thought I would acquire, I don’t see food as just a bunch of ingredients put together anymore but more as a piece of art.I would recommend the HACTC Program to anyone who is more of a hands-on learner. There is an amazing staff here who helps and pushes you to your fullest potential, and whatever we talk about in class we usually end up doing, and every program is like that.