LIMA — Misty Lee literally was not still, even after she took a seat at the end of her day. Up she sprang to check a fact or look at a spice bottle or confirm a measurement.
Her energy level, even at the end of her day, speaks for her love of what she’s doing.
“It really wasn’t my grand plan,” Lee said, explaining she has been culinary and food science management instructor at Lima Senior High School for 13 years.
“I took this class and graduated from here in 1981,” she said. Her next stops were jobs in food service, from managing restaurants to dietary departments in nursing homes, even in the grocery business.
“I came into teaching the nontraditional way with like 27 years experience,” she said, smiling. “It’s good because I’ve experienced a lot of different things that they’re interested in. … When you can go to work and enjoy what you’re doing and it’s natural, why not?”
Lee leads 18 juniors and nine seniors this year, helping them hone their skills for the real world via competitions and practical experience like running the Spartan Inn. At the restaurant, lunch is usually served Tuesdays and Thursdays, but she advised those interested should call first. She and the students also are kept busy with party trays and other catering needs of the school.
“It’s a challenge. It’s a new challenge every day,” Lee said. “You help kids find their way to college, to industry and you help them with other things — life skills. The kids can take away so much.”
Eleven of her juniors have passed the ServSafe test.
“So that was really awesome. That’s a hard test,” she said.
The kids are at all learning levels, and she tries to encourage everyone.
“I always say, ‘Is it a party in your mouth?’” she said of new recipes they try. It’s a yes or no question, and if you can’t answer it quickly, the recipe needs tweaked.
“If you just cook by reading recipes, you’re not going to be successful. You have to put your heart in it,” she said.
Today, Lee shares a recipe for roasted pork loin. It’s been a go-to recipe for years in Lima Senior’s kitchen because it’s so delicious. The only must is watching the temperature. Buy a thermometer if you don’t already have one, and use it.
“If by chance you overcook it, throw it in a pan of gravy,” Lee said. “I tell you, it’s great right when it comes out. Don’t overcook it, and it will be wonderful.”
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