FAIRBANKS - What started as a weekly cooking class in Carla Yetter's seventh- and eighth-grade class at Randy Smith Middle School evolved into a tour of the Fairbanks Princess Riverside Lodge's receiving, storage and kitchen areas, topped off with a lunch of hamburgers and french fries.
It gets better. Princess chef Steve Frazer gave a live demonstration of Bananas Foster - complete with a flaming finale. And Princess manager Deb Vance, as she had been doing throughout the meal, served the extravagant dessert while explaining the many reasons waiters and waitresses serve in particular ways.
The behind-the-scenes tour of the hotel Wednesday was the result of a chance meeting between Yetter and Vance who found themselves seatmates on a night flight to Fairbanks. Chatting instead of napping, the two women began planning how to integrate a career theme into the students' weekly cooking project.
Since then, Vance and Chef Frazer have visited Yetter's classroom twice, cooking and sharing their knowledge with the students about opportunities in the food and hospitality industry.
With 40 years in the business, Vance provided a running commentary to students Wednesday on why the food and hospitality industry is a fulfilling career choice.
She also gave the students tips on how to succeed in getting a job in the field.
"First impressions are important. You can never change that first impression."
"When you go for an interview, don't be late. If you are, call ahead."
"Dress nicely. An interview is a very special thing."
Being punctual and dressing nicely, Vance said, tells the employer immediately that you care about the job.
As Frazer began caramelizing butter and brown sugar for the dessert, he told the students how on his first job after chef's school, his boss tossed out all of his measuring cups and spoons, telling Frazer that cooking was all about "sense, sight and smell."
Students watched intently as they had a few weeks earlier when Frazer taught them in their classroom, how to prepare Portabella Bruschetta in 15 minutes.
Simpler fare, usually something fun and interesting, such as an omelet in a bag and nachos, are the usual culinary projects, Yetter said.
Wednesday's tour, concluding with lunch, was appreciated by all students, judging from their attentiveness and smiles.
Eighth-graders Tyler Hanson and Jordan Rodenberger were impressed at how much food the Princess hotel buys and how little it wastes.
Referring to the doors separating the dining room from the kitchen and food storage areas, eighth-grader Forrest Clark said, "There is a lot that goes on you don't know about behind the double doors."
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