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MCHS culinary program receives grant from LOR Foundation for equipment

The LOR Foundation awarded a grant to the Montezuma-Cortez High School Panther Chefs, allowing for the construction of a new kitchen space for beginner culinary students. (Kanto McPherson/Courtesy photo)
The grant will help provide a new cooking space for the beginner classes

The Montezuma-Cortez High School culinary program was awarded $9,700 from the LOR Foundation to purchase a new oven/range and other kitchen supplies for its students.

Kanto McPherson, who has been MCHS’s culinary teacher for 11 years, said the culinary program must expand to meet student demand.

“I’m so grateful for the LOR Foundation,” McPherson told The Journal. “They’re amazing for the community, and they awarded us nearly $10,000 to purchase equipment and expand the high school’s culinary art program.”

McPherson said she and her teacher partner now teach a total of 11 sections.

Culinary Essentials, a beginner course primarily for freshmen and sophomores, needs more space because of conflicting schedules with the Panther Chefs, who cater to businesses.

“My Culinary Essentials have been getting pushed out of the kitchen when we are really swamped and busy with our catering events,” McPherson said. “There isn’t enough kitchen space.”

The money from the LOR Foundation will help provide that space.

“They have approved one of the classrooms being turned into more of a home-style kitchen with a new stove and ranges and everything to make it into more of an old-style home economics kitchen,” McPherson said. “It will be used to teach the basics to my Culinary Essentials intro class.”

The program now has 180 culinary and catering students, including some who have been in the program for nearly all their high school years.

“It’s a great problem to outgrow our facility and to need a secondary culinary educational space to accommodate these interests,” McPherson said. “I’m really proud and excited.”

“My favorite part is the joy of it, seeing students love what they make and be excited to share it and that they want to share the goodness that food brings people,” she said.

Now, the program will work to purchase the equipment to prepare the new space before the June deadline.

In the meantime, McPherson shared that many of her students are preparing to take their ServSafe Manager, a food safety certification test. Every restaurant in Colorado is required to have a ServSafe manager, who has to take a “hard college-level exam” to be certified.

“It instantly makes them so competitive in the service industry or in any job,” McPherson said. “It shows that they can accomplish something. Some of them are doing it for their career, and others are doing it for their jobs. I have a student working at McDonald’s, and she instantly got a raise. It’s worth it for them.”