Expanded offerings: Culinary courses grow at Westfield High School

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When teacher Nikki Heflin first began teaching culinary classes ago at Westfield High School, only two classes were offered.  Five years later, class offerings have expanded considerably — as has Heflin’s vision for the culinary program, which will serve up nine classes in beginning int he 2021-22 school year.

“We started the program about five years ago with two courses, Nutrition and Wellness and Advanced Nutrition 1,” Heflin said. “From there, student interest has grown, the rigor in the program has grown and the needs of our community have grown.”

At a time when the hospitality industry is having trouble filling positions, Heflin views the classes as filling a need.

“There’s a shortage in our community of highly skilled employees, and our students are the perfect fit for a lot of these positions,” she said. “So, right here at the high school, these courses are highly training our students to go in and fill these positions.”

Many of Heflins students fine work as hostesses, dishwashers, expeditors, assistant cooks or even assistant managers while still in high school.

“We have students that are graduating and going off to major in hospitality and tourism management, which traditionally is a two- or four-year program,” Heflin said. “We are seeing students now going to culinary school. We are setting our students up to explore all of those options, and the program is great because we are able to work and capture interest of students and help guide them really on any pathway they want to continue on after high school.”

The classes are offered through a dual-credit partnership with Ivy Tech, where students have the potential to earn up to 12 dual credits for college.

Some of the high school classes even offer certification that can be applied in the workforce.

The Culinary 1 course is a two-trimester class that certifies students in ServSafe, which is the leading food safety standard in the food service industry.

Seth Workman traveled to China to learn about catering. In high school, he participated in Nikki Heflin’s culinary classes. (Submitted photo)

“At the end, they take a national certification exam, and if they pass, they get certified,” Heflin said. “A restaurant has to have someone in the restaurant holding that certificate, according to the Hamilton County Board of Health, and our students are going into restaurants with that certification on their resume.”

Heflin co-teaches the courses with Bryan Ferreira.

Purdue University sophomore Seth Workman is still applying the skills he learned in Heflin’s class. He graduated from WHS in 2018.

“I started taking Mrs. Heflin’s classes in 2016, so I started with the basic nutrition classes, and then my junior year is when they first introduced the culinary arts classes in addition to nutrition,” he Workman said. “I believe the first class was called Intro to Hospitality and Culinary Arts, and I knew I wanted to go into hospitality.

“A lot of skills I used in Mrs. Heflin’s class at high school carry on to college, which is cool because not everyone taking classes gets to say that.”

Workman is majoring in hospitality and tourism management with a minor in event management and French. In 2019, he spent six months in China through Purdue’s hospitality and tourism management program, where he gained hands-on food catering experience.

Jordyn Church slices strawberries.

Course offerings

  • Nutrition and Wellness
  • Advanced Nutrition 1
  • Advanced Nutrition 2
  • Global Culture and Cuisines
  • Intro to Culinary Arts and Hospitality
  • Culinary 1 (two trimester course)
  • Culinary Arts 1: Food Theory and Skills
  • Culinary Arts 2: Baking and Pastry
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