PENNSAUKEN, NJ (KYW Newsradio) — The aroma of freshly baked blueberry muffins wafted from room 408 at Pennsauken High School on Wednesday morning. It’s where 59 students are taking a new four-year baking program established through a partnership between the school and the Pennsauken-based bakery supplier. United States.
It is the seventh bakery school in the world and the first in the United States opened by Puratos, a Belgian manufacturer of bakery ingredients. Pennsauken Schools Superintendent Ronnie Tarchichi said Puratos invested about $400,000 to establish the bakery school.
“We are a Title I district. Many of our students are high-need students,” Tarchichi told KYW Newsradio. “It’s nice to see our needy students benefit from these types of opportunities.”
“Part of our goal is to deliver on our commitments to the next generation,” Jaina Wald, vice president of marketing at Puratos, told KYW Newsradio. The bakery school, she explained, is one way to build a pool of potential employees.
“We want to ensure a sustainable future for the bakery,” she said, “and right now it’s sometimes hard to find qualified bakers.”
Some graduates land jobs at Puratos and others work in other industry sectors, Wald said. “We certainly welcome a number of students. Other students start their own bakery or pastry shop,” she said.
Students donned red aprons and stood among the state-of-the-art ovens, blenders and cooking equipment in the newly renovated classroom. They listened intently as their instructor, Chef Kendall Elliott, taught them the parts of a grain of wheat.
In the first year of the program, Elliott said, students learn the art and science of baking breads and rolls. Cookies, pies and pastries are taught in second grade. “By the fourth year, these students, these students will know how to make wedding cakes,” he said.
“Some of our students have already completed two years in cooking – hot dishes. And now they want to do a year or two in pastry,” he added.
High school student Mariangelica Navichoque already works at Panera Bread and she wants to broaden her skills. “My mom wants to do a restaurant, so I want to help her too,” she said.
The bakery school joins welding, carpentry, and other offerings in Pennsauken’s vocational and technical training program.