GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Students of the culinary program at Gulfport High School are always up for a good challenge.
The program's state-of-the-art kitchen is got its first public closeup by hosting the Gulfport Rotary Club meeting, but it had to be without their teacher, Chef Danielle Rodriguez, who was out of town during the occasion.
Student Melody Mikes was not worried. "I think everybody's ready for this," she said. "We're not nervous at all."
Judging by the students' performance, Rodriguez prepared the them well.
"We do catering jobs a lot," Mikes said. "So, we prepare for this. We know what to do. What to expect and how to talk when they ask us questions."
It was the first time that any civic organization toured the high school and culinary arts facility since the new renovation.
It was a great opportunity for students and civic leaders alike. Rotary members were impressed.
"The food is outstanding," said Rotary member Wil Shurley. "I would stack it up against any restaurant I've been to. These kids have got a great and bright future."
With good food comes good conversation. "We've been talking to students about their hopes, dreams and plans...looking at the myriad of ways that they're being prepared to go out into the real world," Shurley added.
That preparation went beyond expectations.
"At first, I was like, 'Oh, we're just going to cook. Eh, I just want to eat, that's all'," Mikes said. "But actually going through the program, I just learned that it's not all about cooking...I learned things that I never thought you'd do in the kitchen. Just think it's just awesome."
Student Eddie Preston said his love for cooking and his focus for the future comes from home.
"When I was younger, I always liked to cook and experience different things," he said. "I told my mama one day, because she wanted to own her own food business, I was like, 'I'm going to get that for you one day.' "