The Right Recipe
STUDENTS | July 2, 2020
The Right Recipe

How Vaughn Occupational Students Combined Cooking and Community to Create an Award-Winning Meal

Photos for this story were taken before mid-March 2020

If you were to ask a Vaughn Occupational student about their favorite part of high school, chances are they would tell you about community-based instruction. Every Wednesday, Vaughn students travel to different parts of Chicago to participate in service projects, learn about different careers, or simply immerse themselves in the city’s diverse neighborhoods. For its culinary arts students, a trip to Argyle Street—known as “Asia on Argyle”—was the first step in creating a winning meal as part of the Healthy Schools Campaign’s annual Cooking up Change competition. It’s the school’s second victory in a row. 

“It was kind of surprising to win,” said Brianna N., one of the winning students. “We worked really hard on our meal and it took a lot of practice.” 

Vaughn’s culinary arts team views Cooking up Change as a year-long project. After students develop their menu, they spend months working together to perfect the techniques needed to create each dish. Student George B. says communication is one of the key skills he’s learned by collaborating with his peers in the kitchen. On top of mastering how to work as a team, Culinary arts instructor Patrick Murray hopes that each student learns how to create a meal that is healthy, affordable, and, of course, delicious. Their winning combination of pho with fresh fruits and vegetables on the side certainly fit the bill. 

“When making pho, my students really enjoyed the finesse of putting things in the bowl and garnishing it in cool ways,” said Mr. Murray. “They really understood the organizational and presentational skills required.” 

The Cooking up Change competition is meant to align with other facets of Vaughn’s culinary arts program. As a CTE-certified high school, everything connects back to preparing students for future careers in food service. Students like Emily B. have learned everything from using knives to sanitation to working with money by running the school’s café. Vaughn also emphasizes social-and-emotional learning to help students improve their listening and communication skills to build strong relationships with their peers and teachers. 

Nothing exemplifies the tight-knit community at Vaughn quite like how the school finished this past school year. Many students, including Emily and Brianna, had perfect attendance while learning remotely. Mr. Murray views the school’s success as a team effort between teachers, administrators, and parents to help students transition to learning with technology. Now that school is out for the summer, students like Emily are already counting down the days until they can hopefully return to Vaughn. 

What is she looking most forward to? 

“Getting back in the kitchen and cooking again,” she said.