Interview with Mr. Orlando Craig Chaney
Hamilton Culinary Arts Instructor
FCCLA Concocted Comestibles Sponsor
Interact Club Sponsor
Head Girls Junior Varsity Basketball Coach
Assistant Girls Varsity Basketball Coach
How does it feel to teach Culinary Arts for a living?
My culinary classroom is “family central.” Life happens there. It’s not only where we cook, but also where we discuss our lives. I equate cooking with life. Teaching Culinary Arts gives me the stage to encourage students to search for their purpose in life and then develop a hard work ethic to achieve their goals. I teach them the value of passion, drive, focus, and urgency in the pursuit of personal and professional goals. I introduce to them the key steps they must take to educate themselves about the right choices. I also stress the importance of understanding the consequences of those choices. They learn to accept constructive criticism and be resilient in the face of setbacks if they are going to succeed. I emphasize the importance of listening, being detail-oriented and organized, communication, teamwork, and to have integrity.
What types of food are your favorites to teach/cook? Why?
I enjoy teaching the students to bake desserts because they enjoy sweets and it always puts smiles on their faces. My favorite foods to cook always vary depending on my mood, the time of year or season, and who I am cooking for. I love cooking Italian foods with the aroma of garlic in the air.
Do you think ethnic diversity plays a part in the way you teach your classes?
I teach the students to celebrate their differences. It makes the world a better place and contributes to a more positive working environment. I force all of my students to work in groups with others instead of their friends. I explain the importance of building powerful relationships with other people if they want to open certain doors in life. We have projects that celebrate the foods and cultures of people from all over the world.
How do you think food affects people’s lives aside from keeping them alive?
When people are open and experience different foods, they expand their horizons. It teaches them that tasting and cooking different foods is similar to celebrating ethnic diversity. It is from this acceptance and openness that positive and meaningful relationships are built.
What is your favorite dish to make?
I enjoy cooking soul food (comfort foods). These are usually dishes from my childhood that my mother prepared that I may have adapted to incorporate my personal tastes.
What is one of the most difficult dishes you’ve taught or made?
Culinary Arts 1 is a class that teaches basic techniques and relatively simple dishes. Nothing is hard to prepare for me. When you have a passion for something, it’s just fun. I have always thought that the meringue my mother made for her lemon meringue pies looked tedious and difficult, so I have rarely attempted that dish outside of the classroom, although I LOVE lemon meringue pie. In our Culinary Arts 2 class we enjoy preparing international dishes from around the world and regional dishes from different parts of our own diverse nation. These meals are more different than difficult.
How do your students usually react to your classes?
Each year my students discover that Culinary Arts is not an “easy A” class, but involves much work and many lessons about life. The reactions range from disappointment and defiance to acceptance and high expectations. I stress the importance of growing and changing the negative habits that get in the way of accomplishing their goals. I’m “old school”. I incorporate new methods and techniques but my message remains the same.
How does your cooking style differ from other culinary teachers you’ve encountered?
As my students will verify, I like FLAVA! (flavor) I add something to all of my dishes that intensifies the flavor. I wish there was a cookbook for life that had recipes telling my students exactly what to do at the crucial stages in their lives…but sometimes life isn’t made to order…It’s the recipes you create for yourself that are the best.