McDonough is one of the four culinary instructors for the two existing food courses at New Trier. These courses have been so popular with students that a third course has been proposed and could be added to the elective offerings. The school board is expected to vote on the proposal at next month’s board meeting.
“Our culinary courses are among the most popular,” McDonough said. “It’s a good problem to have.”
For six of the eight years McDonough has taught at New Trier, she has been teaching Creative Cuisine, which is offered to freshmen and sophomores at both campuses. An advanced offering titled Gourmet Foods (soon to become International Foods) has not been offered to juniors because so many seniors want to take the course.
That is why a course called Gourmet may soon join the list of elective offerings if the school board signs off.
“We wanted to figure out a way to have a three year culinary experience for students and then also allow for juniors and sophomores to take the course,” McDonough said.
New Gourmet Kitchen on Northfield Campus
Some of the courses are taught at a new instructional kitchen on the Northfield Campus, which features a monitor showing students at their stations a close-up of what the instructor is doing with different ingredients and knife skills, according to Nicole Dizon, director of communications for the school district.
Over two semesters students are exposed to 85 recipes including appetizers, sauces, quick breads, soups, pies and more. Students pay a $70 lab fee to take the course in the new gourmet kitchen that opened during the 2010-2011 school year.
On a day when McDonough is teaching how to make pizza rolls, her class of 23 starts out watching intently on an overhead camera as she slices and dices green peppers, seasoning, onions and pepperoni.
“If you are not a meat eater, you have the option to leave pepperoni out of your dish!” is a directive for the vegetarians in the group.
Teaching Foods Teenagers Love
After a few minutes the students break into small groups and try to put together their own little pizzas.
Among those doing his best to impress the teacher is Spencer Farina, 14, from Wilmette.
“I took this class because I want to learn more on how to cook some stuff,” he said. “When I am at home I am always hungry so I took it that I would have something better to eat when I got home.”
Maddie Kinsbury 14, from Glencoe is having a great time working with her classmates; specifically because of types of dishes she has learned how to make.
“We have learned different dipping sauces and I really like those,” she said. "We learned bruschetta and a spinach artichoke dip.”
Cinnamon rolls and a homemade macaroni and cheese have been some of the most popular options, McDonough said, but she learned from experience not to bother with foods that aren’t going to be popular with teenagers. She recalled some expensive crabmeat did not go over well; so don’t expect too many courses on liver anytime soon.
But she noted there are exceptions to every rule.
“Sometimes we want them to try something that is a little out of their comfort zone,” she said. “We never force them to try a recipe but we ask them to take a taste of something. Sometimes they are surprised.”
Sharing Ways to Eat a Balanced Diet
While few people don’t love a full, rich meal, at the same there is so much talk from the White House on down on physical fitness. So McDonough aims to find a balance.
“We talk about portion control,” she said. “There are things that we make that are high fat or high sugar and we stress that this is not how we should be eating every day. You should deprive yourself, but to learn how to eat a properly balanced diet.”
McDonough says some students ask how to make food less fatty and those options are provided.
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