NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. – Twelve special needs high school students will prepare a full meal Monday as part of the final event in their year-long culinary training program at Don Coqui Restaurant.
“They will all be showing off their food preparation skills and cooking skills and then serve the meal that they have prepared for their parents and teachers,” said Greg LLau, case manager and transition coordinator for the New Rochelle School District.
The district and Don Coqui Chefs at Work have collaborated on a community-based work-study experience for students who are interested in the culinary arts, the district said.
The restaurant has created a modified culinary arts program for special needs students. It's considered one of the city’s most successful transition programs for students with intellectual or developmental disabilities who are graduating from high school, the district said.
Two professional chefs from Don Coqui and three teaching assistants from city schools make up the program’s staff. They use intensive teaching methods to raise the students’ cooking abilities, with the aim of helping them find work preparing food in restaurants after they graduate, the district said.
Students work with the chefs to learn nutrition, menu selection, how to identify the right ingredients and equipment to use with recipe’s, food preparation, culinary techniques, knife skills, proper food handling, cleanliness and the science and math involved with preparing food, the district said.
In addition to teaching the students how to cook, the staff uses other strategies to help students overcome unhealthy eating habits. Students also practice their social skills while eating shared meals, the district said.