Parkway West remodels Culinary Arts department

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The Parkway West Career and Technology Center has cooked up a plan to remodel its Culinary Arts department this summer, installing new equipment to bring the kitchen up to industry standards. 

The renovations will update approximately half of the cookery’s machinery, culinary instructor Michael Thimcheck said. Construction began May 1 and will continue through August.

The construction will cost about $650,000 and will be funded by the 12 school districts that send 9th- through 12th-grade students to Parkway West’s vocational and technical programs. This is the kitchen’s first update since it was constructed in 1978. 

Mr. Thimcheck said the new equipment will align with Pennsylvania’s standards for Culinary Arts and will better prepare students for the professional culinary world. 

“We’ll be able to teach differently,” he said. “Instead of it being more of a kitchen built for catering and buffet work, we can do what we call ‘à la carte work.’”

Unlike the old kitchen’s format, which was best suited to large-volume cooking, the new arrangement, which uses a line structure, will enable chefs to prepare food to order. 

You would have broilers, fryers, steamers and ovens right there at the cook’s fingertips so that the food can go right out,” Mr. Thimcheck said. “We didn’t have that before. We just had the equipment scattered throughout the kitchen.”

The renovations also will permit the department to teach a waiter and waitress system that is analogous to ones used in restaurants. 

Students will be able to take orders and place [them] in the point-of-sales register, which have all of the menu items pre-set, just like any other food service operation,” Mr. Thimcheck said. “The order goes into the kitchen on a small printer, and the chefs or cooks prepare the order.”

The Culinary Arts program typically enrolls 80 to 90 students at the start of each school year, but Mr. Thimcheck said the new facilities might prompt more students to register.  

“It’ll be a lot more inviting to them,” he said. “It’ll be modern, it’ll be bright, it’ll be more attractive to the person coming into the kitchen and looking at it — not so drab, not so old-looking.”

Danielle Benchoff, a second-year Culinary Arts student and a junior at Montour High School, said she was excited about the renovations.

“They’ll give us a chance to experience how [the work world] actually is,” she said. 

Danielle currently washes dishes at Latitude 40, a restaurant in North Fayette. Parkway West’s facilities soon will more closely match the equipment at her workplace. 

“I’m working in a place where it kind of sounds like it’ll be the same set-up as what will be in the kitchen [here], which will be really nice,” Danielle said. 

The Culinary Arts department’s full-service restaurant and food service store is closed while the kitchen undergoes renovations and will reopen when construction is complete.

Marisa Iati;, (412) 263-1891 or on Twitter @marisa_iati. 

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