Lambert’s Kitchen King: a conversation with Teacher of the Year Laura King

Ms.+King+mainly+focuses+on+the+hospitality+aspect+of+food++.+She+enjoys+how+the+power+of+food+can+bring+everyone+together+in+one+table.++She+also++endeavors+to+meet+everyone%27s+satisfaction+through+her+dishes.+%22Don%27t+put+something+out+there+you+have+not+tasted.+If+you+don%27t+enjoy+it%2C+no+one+will.%22+said+Ms.+King.

Emma North

Ms. King mainly focuses on the hospitality aspect of food . She enjoys how the power of food can bring everyone together in one table. She also endeavors to meet everyone's satisfaction through her dishes. "Don't put something out there you have not tasted. If you don't enjoy it, no one will." said Ms. King.

The bright lights illuminate the reflections of budding chefs in the silver bowls of the Kitchen Aid Mixers that sit atop of the stainless steel work tables of the culinary arts kitchen, room 1538, Lambert High School.  Laura King, Lambert’s eighth teacher of the year, moves among them, modeling knife techniques and tasting sauces.  She and her students work together with ease, a family unit who learn about life and professional dreams via the magic that is food.

“I went to Carson-Newman college and majored in family consumer sciences. The first 6 years [of my teaching career], I taught food and nutrition, baking courses and career tech. Then I went back to to school, where I taught in Florida, at Johnson & Wales University and that’s where I received extra education in the area of culinary,” states Ms. King as she discusses her journey towards running Lambert’s Culinary Arts Program. “I had extra endorsements that added onto culinary, and I had my own business. I stopped teaching for 5 years and I opened up a bakery and catering company,” she continues, proudly remembering all that owning her own business taught her about the culinary field.

“I initially thought I wanted to teach. I always taught high school. But, I decided to take some time off to see if I preferred the food preparation side of the industry,” adds Ms. King. Ultimately, she returned to the teaching field and combined her knowledge of the kitchen with her knowledge of the classroom. Teaching at Lambert allows her to achieve two ambitions: preparing young chefs for the industry and raising her children.“The biggest education was having a restaurant. Because now, I can bring that to the students in the sense of ‘this is really what’s going on in the industry,” explains Ms. King.

Culinary Arts has transformed from a rudimentary study of food and nutrition to one that prepares students for work in commercial kitchens immediately upon graduation. Having owned a catering company, Ms. King is not only an expert in the field but also a valuable mentor for Lambert’s budding chefs: “[Cooking has] just always been a part of my life. My mom tells a great story of me making my first scrambled egg at 5 years old. I’ve always loved to cook and being around [food].” Ms. King’s love and passion for the art of cooking has transformed Lambert’s Culinary Arts Program.

Ms. King teaches in an industrialized kitchen among three levels of students: Introduction to Culinary Arts, Culinary Arts II and Culinary Arts III.

“We only take 10th to 12th grade students. In Intro, they start learning their basics including how to handle their knives. In Culinary I, they start to learn about our mother sauces and French cooking while learning how to fabricate chicken, fish, and beef and how to make everything come together with a recipe as a guide. Then in Culinary II, they focus on buffets,” explains Ms. King.

Culinary II students, mostly juniors, also run the Giddy up Grill, a school-based café that allows teachers a chance to get “chef-in-process” prepared meals delivered directly to their classrooms. “This program improves staff morale weekly by providing yummy lunches that are hand delivered to teachers,” explained Ms. Daniel, an assistant administrator at Lambert.

Not only are the teachers able to benefit from the specialized meals, the students are able to earn opportunities to get off of campus and attend banquets. These banquets allow students to apply the skills they’ve learned in class to real-world scenarios. 

“Every year we do an international food unit. Last year I had a Korean grandmother who came in and made kimbap and bulgogi. It was so good, and my students loved them. It is good that I can get other people to teach us more than I can ever teach in those areas,” explained Ms. King.

She exposes her students to different cultures around the world while also immersing herself in the experience, expanding her culinary and cultural expertise. During this particular unit, the students research about the culture to understand traditional dishes. “We also talk about the reasons why certain food might be prevalent for their culture,” added Ms. King.

She is a teacher who focuses on understanding the educational aspect of each food before performing any steps. She further emphasizes the need to recognize each dish from its very beginning. 

“Ms. King is a caring, fun, and spirited teacher that always challenges us to go further  with our own skills. She encourages us to do better and we’re like a family now,”  explained Abbey Darwin and Ashlea Vaughan, two juniors in their second year of culinary arts.

They have experienced some challenging and delightful processes during class this school year. Through their accomplishments and failures, they learned enough skills to work independently in the kitchen. Both students have fallen in love with their the abilities to express themselves artistically through grilling, boiling, frying and catering.

She is successfully running one of the most outstanding career pathways found at Lambert and is unequivocally appreciated due to her hard work and love of teaching. “I was hooked with her enthusiasm, care for students, and knowledge in the field,” said Dr. Davison, the principal at Lambert High School.

The Culinary Arts class was introduced to Lambert High School, not too long ago by the collaboration between Dr. Davison and Ms. King. Together, they shared their visions of the course and sought for long term success.

He explained his struggle to recruit the “right” teacher to start this critical program in the first place. Ms. King’s vision of the class along with her expertise of the industry has been instrumental towards the success of students in their future careers. “Being selected as the teacher of the year in such a small department, CTAE, is testament to her abilities to instruct, connections she makes with students, and the relationships she establishes with staff,” added Dr. Davison.