Chef Brenda Hitchins Culinary Classes inspire teamwork and taste-testing.
Washougal, WA December 21, 2021 – Creativity, icing, and dough were flowing in Chef Brenda Hitchins’ culinary class last week. With prizes and bragging rights on the line, student teams had seven days to create a gingerbread house masterpiece that would be displayed and voted on by their peers. Students, working as a team, were tasked with planning, budgeting, designing, building, tasting, and advertising their creative gingerbread houses. When asked what their favorite part of the assignment was, the overwhelming consensus from students was taste testing the various ingredients, followed by teamwork and the ability to be creative.
As part of Washougal High School’s Career & Technical Education (CTE) program, culinary arts students learn skills needed to enter the workforce after graduation. The very popular culinary class is not an easy one to get into, but when students enroll they become accustomed to fun and engaging assignments where they learn real-world skills that can be used directly in the culinary arts industry. Chef Hitchins’ experience working as a pastry chef in Las Vegas makes her uniquely qualified to guide students through these learning activities, focusing on creating beautiful, edible works of art that belong on a magazine cover. “The best part of CTE is the ability for students to work on projects as a group,” said Chef Brenda Hitchins. “Soft skills are threaded throughout the project and students don’t realize they are using them.”
This year’s competition saw an increase in gingerbread house submissions and the students set a new bar on their designs. Chef Hitchins said, “The best part for me this year was the caliber of design from some of these students. They really showed their skill level and creativity.”
Wanting more accessibility and more peer involvement, the gingerbread houses took up residence in the commons, allowing more students to view and vote via mobile devices. With their houses on display, the student teams worked to market and advertise their house to garner support and votes from their peers. At the conclusion of the competition the votes were tallied, and the counts were close. Taking first place: the Cinnamon Cottage, designed and created by Katie Casillas, Kyler Buck, Karleigh Sawyer, and Hudson Lucas. In second place: The Witches Hut designed and created by Vivian Smith, Joja Ladage, Juliette Davis, Olivia Gola. Tied for third place: The Cozy Cabin Christmas designed and created by Fisher Lees, Turner Herd, and Jacob Sanders; and The Mystery Machine designed and created by Kaitryn DuBose, Randhe Anderson, Mackenzie Mills, and Grace Christensen.