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HE&R Chefs Create Culinary Readiness Program for Milton Hershey School Seniors

Over the summer, Hershey Entertainment & Resorts (HE&R) Food and Beverage team members worked alongside Milton Hershey School’s (MHS) Transitional Living (TL) program to create a culinary boot camp to prepare seniors for life after graduation.

“The program started with the genius idea of Tim Durgey, Hershey Entertainment & Resorts Culinary Purchasing Supervisor, who is a Project Fellowship coordinator,” said Ben Bedard, Executive Chef of the Hersheypark Entertainment Complex at HE&R. “We piloted the program with student homes and houseparents but found through working with Jonathan Small, MHS Associate Director of TL, that the program may work even better with seniors.”

At the beginning of the 2021-22 school year, the entire Class of 2022 participated in an initial virtual workshop comprised of introductory kitchen work through a “flipped” classroom model. Bedard and his team of chefs virtually taught seniors basic culinary skills and prepared them for what to expect of the two main courses, four weeks each.

This HE&R program is expanding on the life skills already taught in TL including financial literary, healthy lifestyle habits, community living, and social and emotional skill-building. Each TL apartment is allotted a monthly budget for food and necessities and students are responsible for meal planning, buying, and cooking meals, and budgeting appropriately.

“This culinary program is using our budgetary amount per month to help students plan meals that could be cooked/made by them while also teaching proper culinary skills to make it happen,” Small said.

Just like in the classroom, the HE&R culinary team members task students after each class with homework to move forward in the program. Bedard and his colleagues hope to offer shopping, recipe building, and budgeting classes for the students in the coming months.

“I hope to empower students. I want them to feel the beauty of cooking,” Bedard said. “We are able to provide them with the formulas and ratios instead of a recipe—providing the tools to take the fear away. I want the students to understand that cooking can be fun and beautiful, while also learning about nutrition and sanitation practices.”

Chef Bedard anticipates this MHS culinary readiness program continuing for years to come—empowering seniors and building relationships between MHS students and HE&R culinarians.

Milton Hershey School is carefully following federal and state guidelines, CDC considerations, and MHS-established health and safety protocols to keep our campus a safe, nurturing, and healthy place. 

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