It’s week 6 of Open Gate International’s Orange County Winter Culinary Arts Program . Executive Chef Cinthia Worsey has introduced 16 students in our current class to the atmosphere and demands of a professional commercial kitchen. In the area of life skills, students are learning to overcome fear, to maintain a positive attitude, strive for excellence and work with integrity, ethics and honor.
In the coming weeks, during the Strengths portion of the life skills curriculum, students will highlight the best qualities of their fellow classmates by writing them on the chalkboard. “We take a photo of each student beside their strengths and present them with it at their graduation ceremony on April 9,” says OGI’s Executive Director Judy Lamborn. “This is critically important, as most of our students have never been told what they are good at, or know how they are perceived by others,” she continued. “Quite often, they are shocked when they hear all the positive things their classmates have to say about them—especially after only knowing them for a few weeks.”
On the culinary side of the curriculum, we checked in with three students as they prepared two pasta dishes in the OGI kitchen.
Q: What have you learned so far?
A: Everything! Cutting, frying, blanching vegetables. What we’re doing now, pasta, is very delicate. It looks easy but you have to know what you’re doing. Chef Cinthia is why I’m here. I came to learn from her – she takes the time to help you out and work with you. If I can work for someone who is as great as Chef Cinthia, I’ll be happy.
Q: Did you have kitchen experience before coming to OGI?
A: I have a few years of cooking experience, but never had the chance to develop my skills like I have here. I’ve learned the individual stages of creating a meal, from prep to completion. We started with sauces. The first class, we just came together to make a meal. Now we are learning how to complement flavors, emulsify ingredients, figuring out how to balance things like acidity, sweetness, bitterness – learning what to add and subtract to make it all delicious. These are the skills I’ll need to become a Chef Cinthia, an executive chef.
Q: What’s the most surprising thing you’ve learned?
A: The technique of stir frying. I had done it before, but I wasn’t doing it right. Once you know the right technique of doing it, it’s so much better. You use the right amount of oil on high heat, and cook it as fast as you can.