GRAND CANYON, Ariz. - For over 20 years Grand Canyon School (GCS) has celebrated the tradition of Thanksgiving by sharing a Thanksgiving feast for students, staff and teachers.
Thanksgiving is a time of sharing and thankfulness expressed through the age old tradition of sharing a meal together. It is a special time that the entire school enjoys.
Culinary Arts I and II is a high school class taught by Food Service Director and teacher Matthew Yost. Continuing in the tradition of years past, Yost's culinary classes prepare and serve the Thanksgiving feast.
Yost has been an educator for 18 years at Grand Canyon School and is grateful for the opportunity he and his students gain from this event. Yost said the feast gives students experience in the culinary industry and world of food service and catering.
"My culinary classes definitely enjoy it and it's a chance for them to perform a catering event for all of their peers," Yost said. "It's really wonderful for them to get to show the skills they've learned at the beginning of this semester or from previous years of being in these classes."
The feast is served the day before students go on Thanksgiving break and provides all the traditional Thanksgiving dishes and desserts.
"Everything that you can imagine at a Thanksgiving meal, we make," Yost said. "Turkey, stuffing, homemade mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, and fresh vegetables that we get in raw form that we slice, dice and prepare. We also make whole grain dinner rolls from scratch as well as a ton of pies."
For the many pies needed for the feast, Yost enlists Mrs. Cyndi Moreno's kindergarten class for some fun filled helpers.
"We join together with the kindergarten class for them to help us," Yost explained. "We make all the pie shells and my class helps the kindergarten class, showing them how to measure everything out and we have them help us fill the pies before we bake them."
Yost said the kindergarten class and Mrs. Moreno have helped with pie preparation for the last four to five years. It is a special time that Mrs. Moreno and the kids enjoy. This year the students will make pumpkin pies and several fruit pies along with several cheesecakes. Dessert is served later in the afternoon after the 'Snuggle up with a Book' program is over. Snuggle up with a Book, is a program for elementary students. It includes having a book read to them followed by a time for dessert.
The Thanksgiving Feast is sponsored by GCS Student Council. Delaware North Company provides turkeys and Xanterra provides equipment. The Culinary Arts class and student council together serve over 300 students plus school staff and teachers during the two hour event.
There are 20 culinary students enrolled in the classes. These students and the student council are responsible for the full set up and planning for the feast.
"They get to decide how the multi-purpose room is set up. They make the decision on how the food is placed on the tables and make sure the food is getting resupplied and stocked," Yost said. "We've spent the last week prepping anything we can in advance, to simplify things so they're ready to go."
Other class projects for the culinary students include providing cookies and hot chocolate for Santa's visit to the Grand Canyon National Park Visitor Center, a gingerbread house competition, Christmas dinners for the staff, various catering events for the community and fundraisers for student council and other classes at the school.
Yost said the students are excited to show off the skills they are learning and he is certain they will experience how busy the food service industry can get.
"It's quite an assembly line. It's all hands on deck. They get to see all the craziness that happens in the kitchen," he said.
Culinary Arts I and II is open to all high school students. For those who sign up, students can receive college credit from Coconino Community College through a dual enrollment program. The culinary classes are popular at the high school and it's not only because the students get to eat.
"We teach the classes as a life skill," Yost said. "For students who don't want to go into the culinary field but plan to go to college, it's one way to help pay for college."
The skills learned in culinary arts class give students food service experience. Students are better prepared if they decide to attend classes during the day and work part time in a restaurant during college or later on.
One of the many things Yost is thankful for this Thanksgiving is his community and his students.
"It's one of the really nice things about having a community and sense of family that we have here. I'm super proud of all of my culinary arts students and how hard they've been working for this event," Yost said.
The students served from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Nov. 25 for the Thanksgiving Feast.