COLUMBIA — On Saturday mornings, Douglass High School freshman Tim Marler, 15, sometimes offers skateboarding lessons at Cosmo Park for $20 an hour. Beginning Jan. 4, Marler will master his young entrepreneurship skills during school hours, without the wheels.
He, along with sophomore A’ijania Christian, 16, will learn how to run a business in Douglass High School’s new catering and culinary class.
After hearing about the new class during schoolwide announcements, interested students interviewed with vice principal Kerry Hesse and outreach counselor Kelly Anderson on Dec. 5 and 6 for a spot in the course. On Dec. 9, Marler, Christian and 11 other students were given certificates and accepted into the new class. Each student applied for different reasons — Marler wants to gain business savvy and Christian wants to expand her culinary knowledge.
Christian hopes to run her own restaurant one day, though she’s not sure what kind. Since she was 12 or 13 years old, she has cooked comfort foods like chicken breast casserole, steamed carrots and mashed potatoes.
“You told me you could throw down the meanest fried chicken in the state,” Anderson said.
“No, it was steak!” Christian said.
The catering and culinary students will learn how to cook, but first they will organize their workspace, which has been a largely neglected classroom. The room has two ovens and counter space and has been used as storage or to house students serving in-school suspension. After the transformation, the students will begin working as Bulldog Barbecue, the Barbecue with a Bite catering company.
Collaborative teachers Anderson, Hesse, former mobile food truck owner Josh Bass and Holiday Inn chef Jesse Souder will divide the curriculum among their specialties. On Mondays, students will be bused to the Holiday Inn and learn essential preparation and cooking techniques in Souder’s kitchen. Bass will teach historical and social aspects of food consumption production, and he will encourage students to write in a journal about what food they eat. Anderson, Hesse and the students will tour local farms, Buckingham’s Smokehouse BBQ and Schnucks’ catering company for real-world application.
Throughout the course, students will prepare an original menu of barbecue pulled pork and chicken, potato salad, coleslaw and a dessert — possibly Bass’ grandmother’s banana pudding — for two catering events. The students will also learn how to brew root beer.
“When you get into brewing root beer, you’re doing chemistry,” Anderson said. “(The class) hits a lot of disciplines.”
The class itself was an interdisciplinary collaboration of two concepts. Anderson, a self-proclaimed "professional barbecuer," developed the idea while tailgating before an MU football game. He first thought of teaching a barbecue class and then expanded it to include catering.
Meanwhile, Bass cultivated an idea to teach a mobile food truck class and incorporate social media and popular culture. He sent his concept to Hesse, and the men began collaborating. Their ideas continue to expand.
“What I want to do is take this as far as it will go,” Anderson said. “But the kids are going to be the ones driving the business.”