Willis ISD center teaches professional culinary experience

Willis High School senior James Hundley Jr. and Chef Sandi Jefferson practice cooking in the Willis Career and Technology Education Center as the program begins its second year.

Willis High School senior James Hundley Jr. and Chef Sandi Jefferson practice cooking in the Willis Career and Technology Education Center as the program begins its second year.

As Willis ISD’s Career and Technology Education Center enters its second year of operation this school year, district officials said more students are coming into its programs.

Travis Utecht, the director of career and technology education, said more than 160 students applied for the two Introduction to Culinary Arts classes at the center, which each have 50 spots. He said of the many courses in the center, the culinary program has risen to match the most popular programs such as welding, criminal justice and health sciences.

“It’s been an absolute dream this year,” Utecht said. “I’ve probably put on 10 pounds [last] year, eating all the different types of food they’ve made me [last] year, but it was worth it.”

Willis High School senior James Hudley Jr. said his culinary course at the CTE center and the teachings of chef Sandi Jefferson have prepared him for his goal of being a professional chef.

“It was really fun just to go through and learn it all,” Hudley said. “Every day was different.”

Jefferson said in her course, students learn the basics of cooking from food safety and sanitation to knife skills. She said as students progress, they learn more complex concepts such as creating a menu or marketing.

“Kids are able to take what they learn here and translate it into other courses,” Jefferson said.

Jefferson said this year, students will now prepare food for the staff every Thursday. She also wants to invite local chefs and bakers to share their knowledge with the students.

The $39.4 million center was funded out of a $109.5 million bond in 2015, the largest bond in the district’s history, according to Utecht. The other projects funded include a new elementary school along M.P. Clark Road, the expansion of parent drop-off lanes at Meador, Turner and Cannan elementary schools, field turf installation at Berton A. Yates Stadium and a track at Brabham Middle School.

Jefferson said she hopes taxpayers know their money has helped students not only learn about cooking but about life in general.

“Food is an integral part of our society," Jefferson said. "We’re all connected through food. … I want the community to know that it was money well invested, that will pay itself off tenfold in the future, whether these kids learn to take these skills and use them with their families [or] whether they are able to get a job and use these skills to work their way through college.”
By Andy Li


MOST RECENT

The first cluster of tenants is confirmed for Marcel Boulevard, a commercial development underway at I-45 South and Grand Central Parkway. (Courtesy Kaplan Public Relations)
Cajun restaurant, day spa, tabletop games: Tenants have been announced for Marcel Boulevard in Conroe

The first cluster of tenants is confirmed for Marcel Boulevard, a commercial development underway at I-45 South and Grand Central Parkway.

METRONext is the agency’s $3.5 billion bond approved by voters in November 2019, which aims to ease traffic congestion, add expansion to the METRO, and make accessibility and safety upgrades.
(Shawn Arrajj/Community Impact Newspaper)
METRO Board approves $1.3 billion budget, discusses METRONext projects

The METRO board of directors met Sept. 21 to give an overview of the drafted budget as well as to receive public comments. It was unanimously approved at the Sept. 23 board meeting.

Montgomery County Food Bank volunteers take donations. (Courtesy Montgomery County Food Bank)
Montgomery County Food Bank receives grant following February's winter storm

After the freeze put a strain on food bank operations, the United Way of Greater Houston awarded a grant worth over $116,000 to the Montgomery County Food Bank.

Kyle City Council voted 6-1 and approved the new citywide trail master plan that will utilize 2020 bond election funds for trails that will help connect Austin to San Antonio. (Courtesy Pexels)
CI Nation roundup: Perfect Game coming to Cedar Park; Kyle City Council approves trail master plan to connect Austin to San Antonio and more top stories

Take a look at the top five trending stories across all of Community Impact Newspaper’s coverage areas as of Sept. 24.

Big League Dreams will reopen in December with updated turf, seating, nets, fencing, graphics and other upgrades. (Courtesy city of League City)
Big League Dreams to reopen in League City; New Caney ISD officials address student possession of a gun, and more top stories from Greater Houston

Read the most popular business and community news from the past week from the Greater Houston area.

The new single-family residential rental community anticipates 169 single-family detached homes and 140 duplexes. (Courtesy Pierpont Communications)
Rental community Lakeside Conroe debuts on Lake Conroe

The new single-family residential rental community anticipates 169 single-family detached homes and 140 duplexes.

Lone Star College System was awarded funding from Metallica's All Within My Hands Foundation for the third year in a row. (Andrew Christman/Community Impact Newspaper)
Lone Star College System receives funding from Metallica foundation for technical training

Lone Star College System has received around $225,000 over the past three years from the band's nonprofit foundation.

Several parents of New Caney ISD students spoke at the district's Sept. 20 board meetings about recent allegations that a student brought a firearm to Porter High School's Sept. 18 homecoming dance. NCISD Superintendent Matt Calvert stressed that no gunshots were fired at the event, and that the district is investigating the allegations. (Wesley Gardner/Community Impact Newspaper)
CI Nation roundup: Round Rock ISD trustees considered for censuring; New Caney ISD addresses allegations of student with gun at campus event and more top stories

Take a look at the top five trending stories across all of Community Impact Newspaper’s coverage areas as of Sept. 23.

Owner Sharon Graff started The Modern Skein as an online yarn store in July 2017 before moving to a storefront in March 2018. The shop then expanded in 2020 in Montgomery. (Chandler France/Community Impact Newspaper)
Montgomery store Modern Skein specializes in hand-dyed yarn

​​​​​​​Sharon Graff opened her current storefront on McCowan Street in downtown Montgomery in March 2018.

Rigby and Lucinda Owen speaking at Conroe City Council podium
City of Conroe renames former YMCA property to Owen Park

After the city bought the property in August, it was renamed after the Owen family, who supported arts in Conroe and donated the land to the YMCA

The Conroe ISD board of trustees approved a resolution authorizing compensation to district employees for days missed due to emergency closures, including the Sept. 14 emergency closure for Tropical Storm Nicholas. (Ben Thompson/Community Impact Newspaper)
Conroe ISD approves emergency pay for district employees

The Conroe ISD board of trustees approved a resolution authorizing compensation to district employees for days missed due to emergency closures, including the Sept. 14 emergency closure for Tropical Storm Nicholas.

At a Sept. 22 workshop, a proposal came up that could make Conroe a certified local government. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)
City of Conroe considering Texas Historical Commission Certification

At a Sept. 22 workshop, a proposal came up that could make Conroe a certified local government.