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St. Coletta's serves up lesson with turkey and mashed potatoes

Nov 21, 2023

Culinary arts students learn to plan, prepare Thanksgiving feast for 100 guests

Before planning their Thanksgiving shopping list, culinary arts students at St. Coletta’s of Illinois took a poll on what to serve.

Turkey and green bean casserole made the cut; broccoli and cornbread did not.

“The kids vote on what they want,” said culinary arts teacher Amy Quinn who organizes a lesson plan around the Thanksgiving holiday each year.

Based in Tinley Park, St. Coletta’s of Illinois provides educational, residential and vocational training services to more than 300 developmentally disabled children and adults from the south and southwest suburbs.

Its therapeutic day school, the Lt. Joseph P. Kennedy School, offers students an opportunity to learn how to cook and bake on professional kitchen equipment using vegetables they grown in the school's greenhouse.

Preparing a Thanksgiving meal for their classmates, teachers and Kennedy School staff members is one of the students’ biggest lessons of the year.

They start by planning the menu and creating a list of ingredients -- many of which were donated this year by St. Bernard Parish in Homer Glen. Cooking begins a few days in advance with students learning how to make a compound butter with fresh garlic, thyme and rosemary that they slather under the skin for a juicy, flavorful turkey.

Then comes the prep work for the green bean casserole, cream corn casserole, corn bread stuffing and garlic mashed potatoes. And don’t forget the pumpkin cheesecake!

“They did a great job,” said culinary arts teacher Kristina Brown as she helped students separate the turkey meat from the bone the day before the big feast.

About 100 plates of turkey, stuffing, cream corn and green bean casserole were dished up and delivered to each classroom on Nov. 22 – the day before Thanksgiving break.

While many students and staff said they were looking forward to repeating the meal on Thanksgiving Day,

Quinn said she didn’t have much of an appetite for turkey after prepping 12 birds for this year’s school feast.

“Thank God my family does prime rib for Thanksgiving,” she said.

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