By Ray Huard …
Rave reviews keep on coming for Vista High School Chef Kim Plunkett and her culinary arts program.
Plunkett has been named the high school’s teacher of the year, complete with a proclamation from the Vista City Council which designated May 2 Kim Plunkett Day in Vista.The proclamation read, in part, “the Vista City Council commends Kim Plunkett on the fantastic work she has done for Vista Unified School District and recognizes her value to the school, students and staff.”
The culinary program Plunkett established at Vista High School “plays a significant role in the positive and successful culture on the Vista High campus,” the council said in the proclamation.
The accolade follows recognition of Plunkett earlier this year by a professional restaurant association for having an “outstanding” program after two teams of her students placed in the top tier of high school culinary students in statewide competition.
“This award is really about my students. Without their eagerness to learn and get involved this program would not be as great as it has become,” Plunkett said after receiving the city proclamation and teacher of the year plaque.
“I come to work everyday and try to do my best teaching and engaging students each and everyday. I take pride in my job and love teaching students about the hospitality and food service industry,” Plunkett said. “I feel very honored to have received this award.
Plunkett has an extensive background in the culinary arts. She started working in a restaurant when she was 15, has Bachelor of Science degrees in vocational education and home economics, a master’s degree in educational leadership, taught food and nutrition in Ohio middle and high schools and attended several culinary schools including the Culinary Arts Institute in Hyde Park, NY.
Three years ago, Plunkett started the culinary program at Vista High School with a full restaurant-style kitchen where her students practice what they learn in class.
As part of that, Plunkett created the Panther Café where her students serve full course meals once a week in a dining room to faculty and staff members at the high school. They also prepare take-out orders for those too busy to make it to the café.
The full culinary program takes two years to complete, and those who finish it and pass a test get a certificate from the National Restaurant Association which they can use to help find work after graduation or help get into a culinary school, Plunkett said.
Despite her achievements, Plunkett said her selection as teacher of the year “was a complete surprise.”
“I feel that many teachers at VHS deserve this award,” Plunkett said.