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Culinary program continues to grow at Oasis High School

By Staff | Oct 17, 2011

A culinary program that began three years ago has grown from one class of 35 students to four classes a day for 278 students at Oasis High School.

Chef Jethro Joseph, who is from the Cayman Islands and a graduate of Johnson and Wales University, wanted to make a difference in the community by offering a culinary program for high school students. He teaches his students how to prepare food properly by instructing them about the right temperature of food, along with cleaning and sanitizing things before and after use.

He said his goal is to send 15 to 20 seniors to culinary school from his program every year with the intent of them returning and working in the community. Since he is a graduate of Johnson and Wales University, his game plan is to send his students to that culinary school.

The culinary program has helped Oasis High School senior Joseph Tocco determine that he wants to study culinary arts after graduation. He said he has already been accepted to Johnson and Wales University and Joseph is working on a scholarship for him to attend.

Once he graduates from college, Tocco hopes to work in a restaurant for a while before opening his own.

Last year Joseph decided to provide his students with yet another real life experience by opening Chef J Bistro off of Santa Barbara Boulevard. He said since the restaurant was successful during its first year of operation, he decided to expand it to another location at 2612 Santa Barbara Blvd.

Chef J Bistro moved Monday, Oct. 10, from a small restaurant of 35 dining room seats to 110 seats. He has nine employees working at his restaurant, six of which are his students at Oasis High School. The students, who are paid employees, serve, cook and wash dishes at the restaurant.

“I enjoy seeing young people doing something good with their life,” Joseph said about his students working at the restaurant. “I’m doing something positive because the kids are working in this place.”

He said he wants the community to stop by the restaurant and support the students.

“I want the community to check out what a 17 and 18-year-old can do,” Joseph said.

Oasis High School senior Angelica Stabile serves at the restaurant, which she said she loves.

“I love it a great experience,” she said. “He is a great boss.”

Stabile said serving is hard work because she had to learn how to organize and manager her time.

“I thought it was going to be easy,” she said.

The students generally begin working at the restaurant between 6-7 p.m. because Joseph wants their school work to be their top priority.

“I teach them responsibility, which is very important,” he said.

Tocco began working at the restaurant last year as a chef after enrolling in the culinary program as a sophomore.

“I love it,” he said about working at the restaurant.

Tocco typically works five or six-hour shifts four days a week at Chef J Bistro. He said he has had the opportunity to learn different things while earning a paycheck while he is still in school.

“I have gained a lot of experience with the culinary art program and the restaurant, so I have a lot of experience” he said. “Without the culinary program, I wouldn’t have the opportunity to work in the restaurant.”

Stabile also enjoys working at the restaurant because she is earning her own pay check.

“It’s nice because I don’t have to ask my parents for money,” she said.

The menu at Chef J Bistro, which is affordable, is now a combination of French and American cuisine, some of which the students have learned how to prepare at school. Joseph said they only use fresh ingredients to make everything from scratch.

Another obstacle Stabile had to overcome as a server was learning everything on the menu. She said having Joseph as a teacher at Oasis High helps because they cook some of the menu items in class, so she knows what the dish is and can explain it to the customers.

On Nov. 21, Joseph will begin offering cooking classes that will cost from $30-$35 a person. The class will teach individuals how to cook a four-course meal.

“One of the students will present a cooking class every once in a while,” he said about the classes at the restaurant.

Although Stabile plans on becoming a pediatrician once she graduates from high school, she said being a part of the culinary program has helped her.

“The program helps in general,” she said. “It is always good to know how to cook your own food.”

Joseph said since he lives and works in the city, all city employees will automatically receive a 10 percent discount off of their check at the restaurant. In addition, he said he also wants to make his restaurant available for community meetings at no charge. The individuals would only have to pay for their meals.