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Jaria Strachan gets to explore the culinary arts

  • Jaria Strachan, 14, a student at Kingsway Academy, will participate in the Career Explorations Program at Johnson and Wales University’s (JWU) North Miami Campus. JARIA STRACHAN

Guardian Lifestyles Editor

Published: Jul 03, 2017

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While many children are enjoying the freedom that comes with summer break, and others are sulkily forced into summer school, one teenager is actually looking forward to going into the classroom this summer. Fourteen-year-old Jaria Strachan, a student at Kingsway Academy, who will be entering 11th grade in the new academic year, will spend one week at Johnson and Wales University’s (JWU) North Miami Campus in their Career Explorations program.

Strachan will be able to avail herself of the opportunity through Chef Jamall Petty, proprietor of Island Flare Cooking School, with whom she has worked since she was 12. He hosted a special Game of Thrones-themed pop-up dinner recently, from which funds went toward getting Strachan into the Career Explorations program.

JWU’s Career Exploration program allows students to explore a variety of careers in the fields of culinary arts, baking and pastry arts or hospitality at the campus of their choice — North Miami; Providence, Rhode Island; Denver, Colorado; or Charlotte, North Carolina.

JWU North Miami features career exploration opportunities in culinary arts and baking and pastry arts.

Strachan will be able to participate in the culinary arts four-day class in which participants learn about stocks, sauces and dry and moist cooking methods. They can sharpen their knife skills and get an introduction to baking and pastry. After four days of classes, the program concludes with an “around the world” experience showcasing their work to parents and guests.

In the baking and pastry exploration, participants explore careers in the baking and pastry industry at the university’s international baking and pastry institute. In this hands-on laboratory class, they learn to produce pastries and plated desserts under the direction of world-class pastry chefs.

“When I met Jaria, I met her as somebody who sought me out because she wanted to learn more about being a chef and how to cook. That was about two-and-a-half years ago. She enrolled in Island Flare’s cooking classes, and every time I turned around, she was volunteering for stuff culinary related. She gives her own time and even works along with other chefs, not expecting anything other than to gain insight and knowledge. I think that it was very clear that she is passionate about food and that, that is what she wants. I figured that this would be a wonderful way to help Jaria on one hand, help to refine what her focus is going to be, and encourage her in a way to realize there are people who would be willing to help her develop her skills and talents as long as she commits herself to them,” said Petty.

“We’ve already determined her career will be in culinary, so now what this does is take her through a bunch of the different disciplines in different kitchens, doing different styles of cuisine, ranging from gastronomy to pastry to international cuisine to garde manger and even front of the house with wine. It kind of gives her an opportunity to experience being in the kitchen in these different areas so that she can make a decision as to which one of the paths in culinary she wants to take,” said Petty.

The cost of the program as well as airfare will be fully funded.

She was humbled by the surprise experience and is looking forward to it. She will leave for JWU on July 22.

“I really enjoy the whole kitchen, but I’m hoping the experience will steer me in the right direction and knowing which part of the kitchen I want to really be in,” she said.

Strachan said she became interested in culinary arts as a child and would pull up a stool to watch her grandmother, Nellie McPhee, as she cooked, and even “helped with the pot”.

She thanked Petty for the opportunity he’s afforded her; she hopes to take away the best things from the experience, bringing them back to him as she continues to work with him.


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