By MAGGIE SNAVELY
A carrot cake topped with pineapple made by Chanel Taitt during class time. This delicious dish is just one of many that Taitt has shown to her students (Photo credit to Chanel Taitt).
Chanel Taitt, the culinary arts teacher at Citrus Valley High school, has always had a special passion for cooking. She shares memories of baking in the kitchen with her mother at the age of just three. However, Taitt only realized that she wanted to pursue a career in culinary arts as a senior in high school. Taitt was accepted into the culinary arts program at Johnson and Wales University in Rhode Island.
Taitt explains that pursuing a career that she loves is one of her greatest life accomplishments. “I chose to go the ‘traditional’ route and earn my Bachelor’s degree in Sociology instead,” Taitt said, “Two months after graduating from college, I enrolled into culinary arts school to take a chance on my passion.”
However, Taitt did not decide on teaching culinary arts right away. Before teaching, she has worked in restaurants, casual dining, catering and hospital kitchens as a chef and cook. She also has experience as an educator, personal chef, pastry cook, corrections cook, ice cream maker, bread baker and small business owner. Taitt said, “I have career experience outside of culinary arts, but I was always in the kitchen cooking or baking something.”
Unfortunately, there can be plenty of difficulties when it comes to culinary arts and distance learning.
“Due to liability, we cannot send ingredients home to students, so I am also seeking out donations from outside organizations,” she said.
Even with these challenges, she wants the kids to find farmer’s markets and other places where they can find in-season ingredients. She will also be holding seasonal cooking competitions to help inspire the kids to get in the kitchen.
Dakota Wilder, a junior at CVHS, said, “She has made the class fun and exciting despite being in distance learning and I enjoy her class.”
One of Taitt’s favorite parts of teaching culinary arts is seeing the confidence her students gain through the year.
“The independence and self-esteem boost from something they made and/or shared with a loved one. One year, I shared some toffee I had made with some students, but it was not part of the curriculum so one student asked me to show him how to make it. Instead, I instructed him through making it; he later shared that his Father was coming home from prison and he wanted to show him what he’d learned,” Taitt said.
Taitt shares one of the more challenging elements of teaching culinary arts. She said, “Students don’t realize there is more to the subject than cooking. It’s science and there is math! Chefs and cooks work with weight, volume, portions and money.”
Even with these difficulties, she hopes her students will walk away from this class with some self-sufficiency. Taitt believes that even if they do not end up going to college for culinary arts, knowing how to cook for oneself is a great step towards growing independent.
Taitt said, “Many students want to learn how to cook for themselves and this is great self-sufficiency, so whatever cooking we can accomplish while in distance learning is great. As a young adult, you should be growing less dependent on others, cooking for yourself demonstrates some degree of self- sufficiency. Let me help you grow.”