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Lordstown students get taste of career as chef

By ALLIE VUGRINCIC

Staff writer

LORDSTOWN — Students at Lordstown High School and Elementary got an up-close look at cooking and a career in the culinary world with chef Andy Pettitt.

Pettitt visited the schools Thursday as part of a career speaker series, which brings in professionals to talk to the students about their skills and career paths.

“When they show an interest in it, we try to match that,” said Superintendent Terry Armstrong.

At the high school, about 40 kids had the opportunity to hear Pettitt’s story and ask questions while he turned out omelets.

Pettitt talked to students about what it is like to be a chef in the industry, stressing the importance of his degree in culinary management.

“It really is important,” said Pettitt. He said his degree was expensive, but it’s opened doors to him everywhere he’s gone.

Pettitt started working at a pizza shop in Youngstown when he was 16, he said. After he got his degree from the now-closed Pennsylvania Institute of Culinary Arts, he returned and bought the pizza shop. He operated it for two years, and then worked as a chef at a nursing home, the Trumbull County club, and then with The Nutrition Group as a food service director. Now a regional manager, Pettitt said culinary hopefuls have to remember that oftentimes even a good chef has to start at the bottom.

“You’ll be cutting potatoes, washing dishes, sometimes for years,” said Pettitt — but he said its a worthwhile pursuit.

“The high school students, I wanted them to understand that knowing how to cook means you’ll always have a job,” said Pettitt. He said restaurants are always hiring cooks.

“You’ve got to eat for the rest of your life,” he said.

Pettitt also demonstrated for elementary students how to cook omelets in an extra-delicious Career Cafe — a lunchtime program the school has been doing since last year.

With the younger students, Pettitt said he wanted to focus on the idea of cooking and their school lunches.

“It’s more about the show and getting them to realize there’s actually cooking going on in the kitchen,” he said.

Pettitt told students in the K-3 lunch that anything can go into an omelet — even foods such as shrimp or potatoes. Students approached a table at the end of the cafeteria in groups, and were given cookies or pudding by school nutritionist Autumn Vay. Pettitt, hard at work, asked the students questions about cooking.

Elementary principal Rich Zigarovich said Pettitt was the first Career Cafe visitor of the year. Last year, the students were visited by an auto mechanic and a preschool teacher, he said.

“It’s a form of learning,” said Zigarovich. “It’s something different than what you see in school every day.”

He said the Career Cafe encourage kids to dream and imagine what different paths might look like — and even if they don’t pursue those paths, it’s the imagining that counts.

“It’s great to see them dream,” said Zigarovich.

avugrincic@tribtoday.com