Celebrating its seventh year, the Houston Westchase Rotary Club’s Souper Bowl is a festive and friendly cook-off competition that raises funds for Rotary scholarships benefitting area high school students. In previous years, Westchase District has cooked up its own soups using ingredients purchased at the Westchase District Farmers Market. This year, communications vice president Sherry Fox decided the District would instead sponsor a team from the culinary academy at Westside High School, 14201 Briar Forest Drive.
“I figured it was time to let some budding chefs represent us,” Fox said, laughing. “Plus, the Souper Bowl provides a great opportunity to showcase Westside’s talented students and their culinary skills. It gives Chef Bell and his students a chance to shine.”
Curtis Bell is a culinary instructor with Westside High School. He said about 180 students are enrolled in the school’s four-year culinary academy, which takes place inside a large classroom kitchen that features 11 six-burner stoves, as well as baking and demonstration areas.
“Freshmen start with a one-period introductory class, while sophomores, juniors and seniors take two-period classes in culinary arts, advanced culinary arts and a culinary arts practicum,” Bell said. “Our students earn certifications at each level in such areas as work safety, food handling and food management. Those certifications really help to give them a head start when they begin applying for jobs.”
Bell added that Westside participates in the Texas ProStart program through the National Restaurant Association, which prepares students for careers in the restaurant and food service industries. He said his students participate in more than a half-dozen cooking competitions throughout the school year, to broaden their experiences and hone their presentation and hospitality skills as well as their cooking technique.
“Ultimately, my fellow instructor, Jeremy Staggs, and I are trying to teach our students employable skills that will transcend the kitchen, so that whether they decide to be chefs or doctors, they’ll have the management skills to be successful,” he said. “We want to graduate great chefs, not just good cooks.”