Chefs Camp 2019

Chef's Camp cooks up tasty educational fare at Panther on Park
Posted on 07/24/2019
Chef Chris Polk works with a student on preparing a meal.

By Gary Weckselblatt

As he bounces around the Quakertown Community High School culinary arts lab, Chris Polk is in his element, both cooking and giving instruction to his students.

For the last three weeks, the passionate educator has been leading Chefs Camps filled with excited campers. Wednesday was perhaps the most special day as a makeshift restaurant - Panther on Park - was set up across the hall. 

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Under Chef Polk’s direction, students created a delicious four-course meal for eight lucky district employees. The menu included Melon & Cucumber Salad, Caprese Chicken, Surf & Turf, and Chocolate Solo.

“A crazy day,” said Chef Polk. “The kids worked really hard.”

It’s all part of the district’s efforts at summer enrichment, with a robust schedule of activities. The four-day camp - Chef Polk’s third this summer - costs $65, plus materials.

His students truly appreciated the experience. “I enjoy cooking,” said Julia Henry, a rising ninth-grader attending her second Chefs Camp. She considers cooking a hobby. “I’m learning a lot of things behind the scenes. ‘Oh, that’s how they make it look like that,’ ” she said.

Elizabeth Hilton said she doesn’t plan to become a professional chef, “but it’s always good to know how to cook,” she said, “and Mr. Polk makes everything interesting.” 

On Wednesday, the students prepared meals for eight people at four tables, explaining each course to the diners, who each were asked to write a note to the chefs.

“Each course was amazing,” wrote Joe Kuzo, the district’s director of technology. “Very impressed with how well the pasta came out. The steak was cooked well. Overall, you should be very proud of how professional and tasteful the food was. Thank you!”

Jason Magditch, the high school’s assistant principal, stated: “Great presentation of all dishes. The pasta was very good, and I could tell it was handmade. Overall, every dish was excellent. Thank you all. You did an excellent job.”     

Chef Polk, who developed the idea of putting a mock restaurant in this camp for high school-aged students, said: “They get so much more from it by carrying the food over.”

Before they delivered the first course, he instructed students on how to serve the diners. “Go to the left of the person, and slide the plate in,” he said. “Then come back and we’ll get to work.”

During the school year, Mr. Polk teaches the culinary program and Project Lead The Way pre-engineering classes each day. “You get a different type of students, which is fun to see,” he said. He’s also a part-time pastry chef at the Crowne Plaza Reading hotel in Wyomissing.

All of the work, he said, aids in his professional development, he said, and “it’s my way to keep my pulse on everything.”

His summer camps are where he gets to try new things, including new recipes. “You just use it to grow.”

Gary Weckselblatt, QCSD Director of Communications, writes about the people and the programs that impact the Quakertown Community School District. He can be reached at 215-529-2028 or gweckselblatt@qcsd.org.

 

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