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Published: Wednesday, 5/12/2004

Toledo: Rogers culinary program gives students thoughts for food

BY MIKE JONES
BLADE STAFF WRITER

One of West Toledo's long-established restaurants is still serving lunches four days a week, and in addition to turning out sandwiches and salads, it has turned out its workers to employment opportunities and to culinary institutes for advanced training in the food industry.

The Red Ram Inn, tucked into the southwest corner of Rogers High School, is one of the career-oriented programs the school offers youngsters enrolled there.

"Some of these kids come here to get credit, but some have an interest in continuing in the food industry,'' said Julie Echols, who has taught the teens and managed the restaurant for 24 years.

One of them is Charae Ruffin, an 18-year-old senior who said

she is interested in attending a culinary institute after graduation. Through the class, she has learned that there is little about the business that doesn't interest her.

"I like to cook and try different things and I enjoy being a waitress and talking to the people who come in for lunch,'' she said while delivering orders recently.

Ms. Echols pointed out that each of her students spend time at each of the different tasks required to make a restaurant run efficiently.

Students in the class must be at least 16 years old, she said. Currently, there are 17 Rogers students involved in cooking, serving, dish washing, and clearing tables in the clean, efficient restaurant.

The large gleaming kitchen is separate from the facilities used to prepare meals in the student cafeteria, she said, adding that everything functions as though it were a free-standing business.

"These can be good jobs," she said, "but we want the kids to know that it involves hard work and long hours."

The restaurant is open Tuesdays through Fridays. Mondays, Ms. Echols said, are reserved for classroom work, preparation for the coming business week, and speakers or field trips.

Many of the approximately 100 meals served during the week are for teachers. Because of time constraints, the students get used to taking and serving orders quickly, Ms. Echols said.

Any income derived from the operation goes to Toledo Public Schools, but is also used for ordering food and equipment needed for the restaurant.

It is one of the classes offered at Rogers that is intended to make youngsters employable after high school, according to Ricardo Cervantes, acting principal. He noted there is a two-year block of study that teaches major appliance repair and does work for anyone who has a kitchen appliance on the fritz.

"We don't do things like furnaces, but stoves, refrigerators, microwaves, those kinds of things we can repair,'' Mr. Cervantes said.

A course in construction trades is being established at Rogers and next year will open for students of Toledo Public Schools no matter where they might be enrolled.

"If a student is enrolled at Woodward, they'll still be assigned there, but they'll take the construction course and all their other course work here,'' Mr. Cervantes said.

The arrangement is necessary because the classes will be two hours long and transportation problems will make it impractical for the youngsters to travel back to their home schools.

The program will be taught by people who work in the construction trades, "so they'll be getting practical experience in all aspects of construction.''

Mr. Cervantes said all trades, such as plumbing, carpentry, and electrical work will be included in the instruction as well as running cement mixers and other equipment.

The acting principal also noted that some Rogers students take classes at Toledo Botanical Garden, which has programs that teach animal grooming and floral arranging.

Contact Mike Jones at:

mjones@theblade.com

or 419-724-6096.



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