North Bend Culinary Program

Culinary student teams create dishes during a cook-off Tuesday at North Bend High School.

NORTH BEND ─ For the first time, North Bend High School’s culinary class has been invited to be part of Johnson & Wales University International Symposium on Bread.

“There are people (attending) online from all over the world,” said Frank Murphy, culinary teacher at North Bend High School. “And our little town of North Bend will be one of them.”

Murphy said his class is creating a video to showcase its use of the mobile woodfire oven, better known as The Blazing Bulldog Oven, which has made them stand out. This video will cover how the oven makes the culinary class unique, including its positive impact on students.

“It attracts 4.0 students and not 4.0 students,” he said. “You see kids smiling – especially those who don’t belong anywhere else, those who aren’t on the football team or in sports but the kid that might get into trouble. They get caught up because its fire and pizza. We do a gig somewhere and someone tells them it was fantastic pizza and (those students) have never heard that. No one says that to them.”

To operate the oven, culinary students sign up to help during events around town. Murphy said that “it’s kids training kids… I stand in the back.”

For him to see their confidence increase, to see their spirits lift, “it’s neat,” he said. “That’s what we’re going to talk about … how this oven makes pizza but a pat on the back changes students. They realize they can do something, can be part of something and that they have skills.”

The symposium is an online event that began in May and runs through October. Murphy said the video from his culinary class representing North Bend High School will be shown in July.

Bay Area Chamber of Commerce’s Educator of the Year

Not only has Murphy’s class brought international attention to the South Coast, but Murphy’s excellence in teaching caught the attention of Bay Area Chamber of Commerce. In March, he received the chamber’s Educator of the Year Award.

“I was taken aback,” Murphy said, having never received the award before. “I’m a Career and Technical Education teacher and … everyone has had to jump through so many hoops on the fly, on how to keep kids involved… For me to do this, I’m pretty humbled.”

Murphy received the award after he got creative delivering his classes to students during distance learning. He looked back to when the pandemic sent students home to learn online, tossing teachers into uncharted territory. For Murphy’s culinary class, he set up cameras in an empty kitchen and invited students to cook along with him. He rearranged his classroom, placing cameras to get overhead shots while he cooked.

“I know for myself, teaching this way is a lot harder than having kids in the classroom,” Murphy said. “It’s a different stress.”

Murphy explained that when he put a 10-minute video of his cooking course on YouTube, the process took three hours “to make it because you have to set it up and record it.” Not wanting his students to get “bored stiff” while listening to him, he asked the owners of Ciccarelli’s Restaurant in North Bend if he could cook in their kitchen and record it for his class.

“…I brought the equipment down to Ciccarelli’s,” Murphy said. “I brought down some cameras, laptop and microphones. It went … really well.”

Murphy said that before distance learning, taking a school bus somewhere “and bring a lot of kids to one spot” was difficult.

“I think what I will start to do is go out and do our own taping in different facilities to show kid’s what’s going on and incorporate chefs and owners,” he said.

Murphy hopes to expand this idea into the fishing industry, do interviews and then show the students.

During most of the school year’s distance learning, Murphy said students had the option to do some in-class cooking while social distancing and wearing a mask. He said the option was available three days a week.

“It was completely voluntary,” he said. “Kids (could) sign up and say when they wanted to come in.”

When students signed up to cook in-class, Murphy made sure that enough was cooked that they could take some home.

“We did desserts twice, but usually it is everything from lasagna, pasta dishes, everything from scratch,” he said. “One class per term, there is a steak. A lot of times we do bread to go with it.”

Over the years, Murphy said a family – that wishes to remain anonymous – began donating to support the class. This school year, he said, that donation helped cover the cost of the steaks.

“That’s not coming from district funds,” he said, adding that the family even doubled their donation this year since it costs extra when “you’re sending food home.” The family donated $2,000.

For more information about the International Symposium on Bread, or to purchase tickets to see North Bend High School’s culinary class in July, visit breadsymposium.com.

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