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Bonney Lake Students Show Off Culinary Skills at Chef Dinner featuring Eastside Restaurateur

Watch students in the culinary arts program at Bonney Lake High School create and serve a decadent meal, with the help of Eastside chef Russell Lowell.

Bonney Lake High School's kitchen could arguably be the foodie destination on the Plateau, as countless high-end dishes have been created behind its doors. 

Last Thursday evening, a roasted tomato bisque simmered invitingly on the stovetop and the smells of baking chocolate were in the air. Pan roasted garlic chicken breasts rested nearby, waiting to be doused in a butter herb sauce and complimented with a butternut squash puree and garlic mashed potatoes.

The concept and recipes belong to a successful restaurateur from the Eastside, but the execution was all due to students in the Bonney Lake High School culinary arts program.

"It's all about simple ingredients, and creating food done well," said Kahale Ahina, BLHS culinary instructor. 

And the best way to learn how to cook a decadent three-course meal is practice, of course.

"In this program, students really do get that hands on expeirence they need to make it in the industry. Plus, it's a great outlet for creativity," said Sharon Fochtman, director of Career and College Readiness for the Sumner School District. "These students are working with real industry professionals and getting the technical training they need to make it in a culinary career."

The curriculum is part of the nationally-certified ProStart program, which gives high school students a hands-on experience that blends culinary arts training with real practice in the industry, with certified instructors at the helm.

Culinary Arts is part of the Sumner School District Technical Education program that trains students for careers in restaurants, the automotive industry, or child development.  While the Panther commons kitchen feeds students during lunchtime, it also doubles as a classroom for beginning and advanced culinary classes.

The Jan. 10 Chef Dinner was the second culinary event open to the public at the high school this year. Students at all levels in the program are now preparing for the end-of-year Top Chef exam, where they prepare meals judged by food professionals from across the region.

Ahina has been the ProStart culinary instructor at Bonney Lake High School since its inception in 2005. He met and worked with Chef Russell Lowell in 1994, where he says his culinary journey really began to unfold. 

Lowell is the owner and executive chef of Russell Lowell Catering, The Garden Cafe at Molbak's in Woodinville, and Russell's, a rustic and elegant restaurant in the North Creek area of Bothell. 

He came to Bonney Lake to not only help out an old friend, but to show Ahina's students what it takes to be a successful chef in today's world. 

"In [the kitchen], the common denominator is food. Here, we honor time-honored traditions--do it simple, do it well," said Lowell. "I started in kitchens when I was 15 and I had proper leadership, so now I give back."

To Bonney Lake sophomore Kim Peart, the program is only the beginning of the life she dreams of outside high school.

"I love to cook, and I'd love to do it professionally someday," she said. "I want to own my own restaurant."

Lauren Padgett (Editor) January 16, 2013 at 09:19 PM
Russell, Kahale and the whole BLHS team were awesome, and the food was SO delicious! I might have to buy a ticket, and just enjoy the meal at the next Chef Dinner...
Lise January 17, 2013 at 07:58 PM
Do they have a restaurant where they can learn to operate and run a business. I have been to some college culinary art restaurant, the food was delicious and the income helped subsidize the course and it offered the customers and great meal at a good price.
Lauren Padgett (Editor) January 17, 2013 at 09:20 PM
The kids at BLHS do all their practice on site at school, but it does lead to some good stuff.. one student told me he works at a Bonney Lake restaurant now and he thanks that to his experience in the culinary program. When I worked for Seattle's Capitol Hill Blog, I did a story on the culinary program at Seattle Central Community College. They have a working kitchen where you can actually buy lunch and pastries that students make during class. It all looked and tasted like five-star restaurant food. They even have a bread-making program. Who doesn't like freshly baked bread? It would be great to see something similar in Bonney Lake... I know I'd eat there!

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