HOUSTON – Oct. 23, 2020 – Dekaney High School CTE Culinary Pathway students recently made a virtual field trip to Truluck’s Restaurant in the Woodlands, where Executive Chef Ricardo Clough took the Dekaney students through an online cooking lesson and a virtual masterclass in fine dining and what it’s like to work “on the line” in a professional kitchen.
“I thought it was actually pretty cool,” said Dekaney sophomore and culinary pathway student Dorian Idowu. “I got to see a whole lot of things and learn a whole lot of things that I never knew or had seen before.”
Chef Clough, who was joined at Truluck’s Woodlands restaurant by Dekaney instructor Chef Horace Doyle, led both on-campus and at-home students through the preparation of several signature Truluck’s menu items, including appetizers and entrees. Clough also talked to the students about kitchen safety and best practices; ingredient preparation and handling; and how upscale restaurants like Truluck’s elevate their dishes to the level expected by fine dining customers.
“It was just a fabulous opportunity,” said Dekaney instructor Chef Audrey Sam-Hardgraves. “Not only to show our students that, through COVID, we can still accomplish the goal in giving them opportunities, but it also showed them different types of food that they probably are not that aware of, to kind of broaden their horizons and to keep their minds open and ready to learn.”
Sophomore Jeremiah Jackson said the virtual field experience had been informative and inspiring. He said that hearing Clough talk to the students about preparing steaks and seafood made him think of his mom, who inspired Jackson to pursue culinary studies at Dekaney.
“My mom always wanted me to cook with her, because she loved to cook when she was younger,” said Jackson, adding that he was grateful to both Clough and Truluck’s for making the experience possible. “I just think it was pretty nice of them to do it.”
According to Chef Doyle, bringing engaging learning experiences like the virtual Truluck’s visit to students – even with the limitations imposed by COVID-19 – is an important part of the mission of the culinary program offered at Dekaney and other Spring ISD schools.
“It’s a part of the curriculum that we teach; it’s hands-on experience,” Doyle said afterward. “A lot of times you only get the experiences as far as your own home, or the things that are directly closest to you in your own backyard. Well, this is an opportunity to expand yourself, to stretch yourself a little further than maybe something that’s around your own personal corner.”
Clough – or Chef Ricky, as he told the students to call him – also spoke with them about growing up in Miami with a sous chef father from Panama and a mother from the Dominican Republic, both of whom inspired in him a love of good food with diverse flavors and ingredients. After studying culinary arts in college, Clough began a professional career that eventually led him to Truluck’s, where he worked his way up from line cook to executive chef – a career trajectory he said is available to the Dekaney students, too, if they work hard and commit to never stop learning.
“You’ve got to treat everybody like if it was your food,” Clough told students. “You want to create something for them that you’d want to eat, and do things the right way.”
According to Sam-Hardgraves, the career-related skills students are learning at Dekaney will help them get a foot in the door working in a restaurant or other professional foodservice environment. In addition, Spring ISD Culinary Pathway students have the opportunity to earn important industry certifications while they are still students that will later help open doors in the industry.
“With the skills that they’ve been developing – from their freshman year all the way to their senior year – they do have that opportunity and the possibility to work at an establishment such as Truluck’s,” Sam-Hardgraves said, “especially with them having certifications that make them eligible for that.”