ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — Two Rockford Public School students, who were supposed to prepare a meal as completion of their culinary arts course, were gifted a free meal from a local restaurant Thursday.

RPS’s Culinary Arts program has sustained a more than 30-year relationship with the Hoffman House restaurant, which gives students hands-on experience.

“Today, what we are doing, [is] in place of their normal final exam – where an anonymous donor would come to the Hoffman House with his family, and the students would prepare him breakfast,” said teacher Patty Oliveri.

Auburn’s Samantha Helton and Jefferson’s Jaeel Thomas, and their families, received a free full course meal today.

“I’m surprised and I’m shocked, because I didn’t realize this was going to happen,” Helton said. “It’s like, ‘poof’, you know?”

Hoffman House owner Michael Prosser said his staff personally served the meals.

“I’ll do anything I can do to help these students, because they’ve been a big part of our company as well, and we’re just doing what we can,” he said. “Everyone is having a different time of year right now and these students, especially, but we’re going to adapt and do what we can to get through this.”

The aspiring chefs say they’re thankful for everything that have learned through the program.

“My goal is to go to culinary school and get my degree in that,” Helton said.

Thomas said, “I want to open my own restaurant when I get older, that’s what I want to do. I just want to thank them for everything they did for me and teaching everything I’ve learned.”

The students didn’t get out of doing work: after tasting the meal, they had to write a detailed review of it as their final assignment for the class.

According to the program’s instructor, “Upon completion of the RPS 205 Culinary Arts program at Hoffman House restaurant the students receive an unprecedented “Skills List” which reflects the abilities they have independently mastered. The Skills List is part of their comprehensive Career Readiness Portfolio they present at job interviews while seeking the ultimate goal of competitive employment.

“A few years ago, while taking a field trip to visit the Elgin Community College Culinary Arts and Hospitality Program, the director said the students entering their culinary program (from parts of 5 counties) do not have the extensive training and experience that RPS 205 offers in this unique program held at the Hoffman House Restaurant. She said the Skills List was most impressive by having the students producing those kinds of quantities of food preparation at the high school level.”


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