USD 259 debuts cooking show

There were almost too many sous-chefs in this cooking show's kitchens.

Minutes before the cameras started rolling, a mixer whirred, pans clanked and tensions ran high.

"Can you move your steak?"

"This is how you do it — look!"

"Just let me do it."

Cooking students at Northwest High School were preparing the diabetes-friendly menu for an episode of the Wichita district's new cooking show "Fit, Fast, On a Dime — Cooking with USD 259."

The shows will begin airing in December on the district's WPS-TV cable channel on Cox 20 and AT&T U-Verse 99. They will also be available on the district's Web site and podcasts.

The show was originally intended to be geared toward employees, but then school leaders decided to involve students in creating healthy menu options and in the video production.

"It's a great way to bring students in," said Vicki Hoffman, director of nutrition services.

Hoffman serves as host of all the shows, which will be filmed at each one of the seven comprehensive schools this semester and spring semester. Each show has a theme, such as low-sugar recipes for people with diabetes.

The cooking show was paid for with a $15,000 grant from the Sedgwick County Health Department. The money was mostly used to buy food, equipment and pay overtime stipends for staff involved, according to the district.

"The focus is on employee health. We try to cover all aspects of wellness," Hoffman said.

Some other programs to promote employee health, such as wellness fairs and walking clubs, will be on a list of activities employees have to choose to do to avoid a $20 monthly health insurance premium this year.

The cooking show series is also meant to showcase Family and Consumer Science classes — an updated version of classes known to previous generations as home ec, said Kathy Tevebaugh, director of the program.

The professional cooking class is the highest level of cooking course. Several of the students compete in cooking tournaments similar to the competition seen on the TV show "Iron Chef."

The national championship of these competitions, put on by ProStart, will be in Overland Park at the end of April.

Making bruschetta for the cooking show is much easier than the competitions, where there is no film editing of their performances, said junior Larissa Ryn.

"It's easy — slice it all up and put it on there," she said while spreading cream cheese-basil mixture on toasted bread. Students made two pans — one with plain toast for a host to demonstrate with and one fully loaded for the end of the show.

Tevebaugh said there are discussions to add an advanced level of professional cooking for students like Sarah Robertson, who complete the current course during their junior year.

Sarah helped host the Northwest show because she and her partner, Paige Murphy, created the best video and three of the four winning diabetes-friendly recipes.

Sarah also earns school credit by working as a waitress at a local restaurant because it's a job in the food industry.

"I enjoy cooking," Sarah said. "It's a possible career for me."

She sounded less certain about her cooking show skills.

"It went all right," she said.