High school students learn about cooking restaurant-quality meals for patients

PLAINVIEW — Students from John F. Kennedy High School on Thursday had a friendly competition to see who could make the tastiest pizza. But they were not in a restaurant or school, but rather a kitchen in Plainview Hospital.

“We wanted to have an opportunity for them to see a hospital setting where we provide restaurant quality food with the same ingredients to a population that really appreciates it and needs it,” said Plainview Hospital Food and Nutrition Director Eric Siden.

The students had the day to learn about a different side of the culinary industry that doesn’t involve celebrity chefs, or Food Network shows. It was all part of the SPARK challenge through Northwell Health, which introduces students to careers in the STEM fields.

“I want to learn about the different careers you can go into, even just combining the different fields and seeing how you can do things differently within culinary,” said junior Hayleigh Weaver.

“My idea right now would be to major as a possible surgeon or doctor. But cooking is a nice life skill to learn in high school,” said sophomore Dylan Lipman.

Students got a tour of the kitchen at the hospital. They learned about what it takes to heat and cook food properly and safely for people with different allergies, and health restrictions.

“And I wish this was afforded to me when I was their age, because you didn’t know what field you wanted to go into. You just knew you liked to cook and had a passion for it,” Siden said.

One of their teachers spoke about what the hopes they take away from the experience.

“People in hospitals need to eat as well. They want to be stimulated, they want that enjoyment. And being able to cook for them, I see it as being very rewarding,” said John F. Kennedy High School Chef Instructor Michael DiGiovanni.