FARMINGTON — Derek Haley has a passion for cooking and is in his element in the new culinary arts classroom that just opened at Mt. Blue High School/Foster Technology Center.

“I love the size of the space here. It is so much easier to move around. And it is beautiful,” he said as he put the finishing touches on a white truffle risotto he was preparing with a team of other chefs-in-training.

“And it is so cool to be the first class in here,” he said.

Haley is planning on a career in the culinary arts and is impressed with the scope of the program taught by Sean Minear.

“How many 16-year-olds can say they have eaten white truffle? Everything that happens in here is always so exciting,” he said.

Minear had just received a gift of a highly prized white truffle, grown in the forests of northern Italy, and he shared a small portion with his class in the form of truffle butter as they made the specialty Italian rice dish.

Another group was stirring a risotto that had prosciutto ham, Gorgonzola cheese and fresh asparagus. A third section was whipping up a southwestern version spiced with diced fresh green chili peppers, corn, jumbo lump crab meat and Monterey jack cheese.

When the tightly timed rice dishes were completed and approved by Minear, students took their plates to the classroom designed with stadium seating to discuss and critique their work and then enjoy the fruits of their labor.

“This kitchen is up to date, relevant and modern. These kids now have the opportunity to work and train in a space that compares with any restaurant they will be working in,” Minear said.

One of the highlights of the spacious classroom is a drop-down projection screen over the stainless steel prep area that is connected to video cameras in the ceiling. The system allows students to observe instructors from their seats.

The shop also has five commercial ovens, two dish-washing stations, a baking station, a double fryer, a standalone broiler, griddles and grills, and a walk-in freezer, refrigerator and storage room.

“This is one of the benefits from starting from scratch,” Minear said.

Last year, all Foster Tech career and technical programs were moved out of the 40-year-old building adjacent to the high school and across town to a renovated industrial building and former shoe shop on High Street dubbed “the shoe” because of its limited space.

Now the new classrooms are being filled with students as soon as they are completed.

The three-year, $65 million relocation and expansion is in its second year, but work is behind schedule. Progress was delayed largely due to the collapse of the old roof support trusses in the gym in September as renovations had started. The gym was supposed to be completed by mid-November but will not be done until after the new year, officials said.

The new “E Wing” section where the Foster Tech programs are to be housed is nearly completed. There are academic classrooms on one side of the central hallway and career and technical shops on the other.

The building was built to incorporate the latest electronic technology, such as interactive computer whiteboards for teaching and conferencing. The Foster Tech programs will all be outfitted with the latest tools and machinery now commonly seen in industry.

The composites manufacturing classroom, where students engineer new, stronger materials by learning to combine two or more products in a controlled environment, has been in use since September but is still under construction, Director Glenn Kapiloff said.

The space, when completed later this month, will have a dedicated, dust-free room for cutting and drying composite molds, a 12- by 30-foot spray room and cutting-edge equipment, he said.

“We tell students that they won’t be making snowboards in this class — they will be designing them,” Kapiloff said. Students in this program, and also in welding, will be learning to use new, highly automated precision machines such as computer numerical control units.

Kapiloff said that as of last week, building construction, composites, culinary arts, employability skills/coffee shop and business education had been relocated to the E Wing from their temporary quarters. Forestry/wood harvesting and metal fabrication will move in by Dec. 1.

Other programs in temporary locations on and off campus are biotechnology, firefighting, automotive technology, agriculture technology, computer technology, commercial arts, digital media, certified nurses assistant, early childhood, emergency medical technician, and plumbing.


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