Coffee County High School Inspires the Next Generation of Culinary Artists and Mentors.

by | Jun 2023

COFFEE COUNTY High School (CCH) nurtures culinary dreams. It inspires the next generation of culinary artists and mentors through its outstanding culinary arts program, spearheaded by teachers Alie Seigmund and Angela Neal.

The program is structured into three levels, starting with Culinary One, where students learn the basic principles of safety and sanitation, become proficient in using knives, and master the operation of commercial dishwashers. Cupcake Wars, held in fall and winter, are a fun way to put their skills to use while igniting their competitive spirit.

The program’s seasoned teacher, Angela Neal, said, “They design their cupcakes however they want to, and each student competes with everybody. Then Chef Ali and some other administrators come in and judge them. So, it’s a competition — Cupcake Wars — and they take it very seriously.”

In May, Neal asked her class to create recipe books for their moms to celebrate Mother’s Day, and it was a huge success. 

Neal started the program seven years ago, teaching subjects such as nutrition, food, sewing, and family and consumer science. Eventually, the school realized the need to keep up with the times and created a class centered around the industry that the current generation is pursuing: restaurants.

“The restaurant industry is where the need was,” said Angela, “So, the students learned how to run the commercial dishwasher and learned the basics of safety and sanitation. So when an employer hires them, they already have a foundation to excel at it.”

Photographed by Ashleigh Newnes.

The principles the students learn in Culinary One enable them to integrate easily into the program’s higher-level culinary classes. 

After one year, they move into Culinary Two, led by certified chef Alie Seigmund, where they build on skills they learned in Culinary One. Seigmund’s classes are more advanced and elaborate, teaching the art of cake decorating and the skills necessary to be a prep cook or executive chef.

Neal explains, “She shows them various tips and other techniques to use in her class. Her class is the advanced class, and like my class, we do bookwork in both classes, but much of our classes are hands-on. I teach math skills. She teaches math skills.” 

Chef Seigmund’s Culinary Two class focuses on various culinary arts subjects, including cooking meats, poultry, starches, vegetables, fruits, and stock soups, among many other things. Her Culinary Three class, closer to Christmas time, creates their own three-layer cake. 

Angela Neal can’t help but feel proud of Alie Seigmund, one of her former culinary students from high school, who is now inspiring and mentoring the next generation of culinary artists. 

Seigmund started out in her aunt Renee Holt’s dining room at the Mercantile Cafe in Manchester when she was just 15. She learned baking and cake decorating from her aunt and later pursued her dream of attending culinary school. 

Photographed by Ashleigh Newnes.

“I started out at Motlow, doing my general education, and then about halfway through my first semester, I found out about a culinary program in Sevierville, Tennessee, at Walters State Community College,” Seigmund said. By January, she was in their two-year culinary program, tapping into her lifelong dream of becoming a culinary teacher. 

“Mrs. Neal has helped me tremendously through my first year of teaching. I am grateful to have her as my mentor and friend,” Seigmund said. 

Chef Neal feels immense pride and gratitude toward the young lady she mentored and is now teaching in CCH’s culinary program. Neal’s students look forward to Culinary Two because they know they have a chef who knows her craft. “It actually gives me a chance to learn from her. And what an honor,” she said. 

Though Seigmund is a chef, the teachers consistently remind students that there are endless opportunities in the culinary arts. 

“You can travel the world and do other things. There are so many other things you can do with careers in hospitality. And we have several students that have graduated from here, not just Alie, that have gone on to be chefs,” Neal said. “You can be a taster; any pictures or anything you see is garnished food.” 

Neal concluded by explaining how CCH’s culinary program’s success is grounded in the excellent support of Richard Skipper, the Career and Technical Education director. 

“He is awesome. He’s there anytime we need anything. If we go to him, and if there’s any way he can make sure that we get it, he’ll do it. I mean, he is an awesome boss. He’s very good to us.” 

The future of culinary arts shines bright at Coffee County High School, where students are learning from the best in the business and nurturing their diverse talents that promise endless possibilities in their delicious careers. GN 

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