Culinary Seniors Building Exciting Futures
Feb 28, 2015 08:00AM
By Kieran Gilman
Shawsheen Tech seniors Katelyn Carmichael of Tewksbury (left) and Michaela Cassidy of Billerica are pursuing careers in culinary arts after four years at Shawsheen. COURTESY PHOTO
BILLERICA – Want proof that Shawsheen Valley Technical High School prepares its students for the next phase of their life?
Take seniors Michaela Cassidy and Katelyn Carmichael as a perfect example.
Two members of the school’s culinary arts department, the pair is taking different but exciting paths after graduating and are excelling as two of the top performers in their craft.
“At school, they get a really good base and they’re able to build on that,” said Bob Roach, the director of the culinary department at Shawsheen. “I think when they graduate, they’re a couple of steps ahead of those that are just getting into the industry. These are two top-flight students.”
Carmichael, a Tewksbury resident, is set to attend Johnson and Wales in Miami for college, one of the country’s top schools for culinary arts.
She’s currently working at Flatbread Pizza Company in Bedford through Shawsheen’s cooperative education program, working as a host and helping with the takeout orders.
Carmichael spent time in the kitchen at Flatbread before choosing a more customer-interactive position.
“I decided I liked working with customers more,” she said.
Of course, this wasn’t Carmichael’s first exposure to a restaurant setting as she spent time as an underclassmen, as all culinary students do at Shawsheen, working as a server at the school’s student-run restaurant.
“I was so freaked out to do it,” she recalls of her first experience as a server in school. “But I got out there and I loved it. It was so much fun.”
Carmichael is eyeing a career in the sales part of the field as the next phase of her education approaches. She said Shawsheen’s comprehensive approach to the industry helped her figure out what best suited her.
“We learn all aspects of culinary arts at Shawsheen,” she said. “I felt pretty equipped to go out in the workforce. I was already ServSave certified, I knew all of the knife skills - I could actually use a knife as well as most of the people in the kitchen.”
Carmichael said she always enjoyed cooking growing up, but it wasn’t until Shawsheen exposed her to its culinary program that she felt she could make a career out of the field.
“Coming into the ninth grade I already knew I wanted to go into culinary,” she said.
Carmichael stays busy inside of Shawsheen as well.
She is a past class president and also was the treasurer of SkillUSA as a junior.
Cassidy, of Billerica, will join the work force after high school and become a full time employee of Good Thymes Family Restaurant in Lowell.
Owner James Boutin said he is likely to name Cassidy his line manager, one of the most high-pressure positions in the building.
“She’s done very well,” said Boutin. “She’s outstanding and she comes from a good family.”
“She’s great,” agreed Roach of Cassidy, who is also a member of student council and an active participant in SkillsUSA. “She’s always smiling and always happy.”
Cassidy is no stranger to Good Thymes, a popular place to eat in Lowell for almost 20 years.
She’s worked there for the past two years through Shawsheen’s cooperative education program, but Cassidy and her family were regulars at Good Thymes long before she was punching in at the time clock.
Now, instead of ordering meals, she’s helping prepare them five days a week, every other week as part of the school’s cooperative education program.
“When she applied for a job, I couldn’t refuse her,” laughed Boutin. “But it was a great thing.”
Cassidy started as a baker when she first started working at Good Thymes, helping make pies and desserts, but soon moved to the line where she helped prepare foods.
“We opened up a bakery in the restaurant where we specialize in pies and cakes and her and another girl basically got all of that started and it’s very successful right now,” Boutin said.
Cassidy admits, her experience at Shawsheen, including her time at the school’s student-run restaurant, was a big help.
“The teachers at Shawsheen really prepare you,” she said. “They talk to you like you’re a real person. It carries over when you leave. You really learn to respect everyone.”
Cassidy said she didn’t officially decide to attend Shawsheen until seeing the school during a visit in the eighth grade. Once she saw all of the courses offered at the school, she decided on culinary and never looked back.
Cassidy initially enjoyed the bakery the most, but admits that the speed and the adrenalin of the restaurant setting was something she grew to enjoy.
The folks over at Good Thymes are glad she did.
“Not everyone can do it,” said Boutin, who has used several Shawsheen students over the years, several of which have turned into long-time employees at his establishment. “She’s basically the coordinator right now every day that she works. She has three, four or sometimes six people that she’s coordinating right now. On a busy day we serve about 750 dinners. She puts in all together so the kitchen runs nice and smooth, the food goes out on time and the quality is still there. She’s a good testament to the school, she’s a very hard worker.”