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FARMINGTON – Farmington culinary arts students watched and sampled a hibachi cooking demonstration last week by the head chef of a local sushi and steak house.

Opi Sinyal of the Tomo Japanese Sushi and Steak House gave a lesson on Thursday to three classes of students in the culinary essentials course at the Farmington Municipal School District's Career and Technology Education Center on North Court Avenue.

Culinary arts teacher Eddie Gurrola said he hoped Simyal’s demonstration would provide some inspiration for the students.

“The main thing I want them to see is people passionate about what they do in the culinary arts world,” Gurrola said.

The culinary arts class is a dual-credit college course administered by the Eastern New Mexico University in Portales. The credits from the course will transfer to any state college or university that offers a culinary arts degree, Gurrola said.

Students learn the basics of food safety and sanitation before moving on to techniques and learning knife skills. They then advance to units including baking, vegetables, fruits and meats. The students also complete the work necessary to be certified in food safety from the ServSafe Food Safety Training Program

During a Thursday morning lesson, Simyal showed students how he cuts the fat off a whole beef tenderloin to ensure customers get the best cut possible.

Simyal prepared several ingredients to cook on the grill top, including filet mignon, chicken, shrimp, Alaska salmon and a variety of vegetables. He said he wanted to show the students they have many options if they decide to pursue a career in culinary arts.

Ellis Hamblin, a senior at Farmington High School, said he thought it was amazing to watch Simyal give a hibachi cooking demonstration.

“It was very inspirational to me. I will think about my food more and how it’s prepped,” Hamblin said.

Hamblin and Piedra Vista High School senior Tristan Hazard are both three-year students in the program.

"What I've learned in this class is the emphasis on making things from scratch, making more healthy choices," Hazard said, referring to the fact that all the meals prepared in the class are made from scratch.

In addition to learning culinary skills in the classroom kitchen, students work on such projects as assembling a menu by researching how to price meals. To do that, they have to take into account the expenses involved in operating a restaurant, including labor and wholesale food costs.

The class also operates as a catering team, preparing food for various events, including weddings and banquets.

Several of the advanced students in February​ prepared a six-course meal for about 20 people, serving plates of scallops, shrimp and salmon tartare, Hazard said.

The event gave the advanced students a chance to primarily focus on quality rather than quantity, as most catering jobs require them to prepare food like spaghetti for large groups of people, Gurrola said.

“This is definitely something I’ve wanted to do since freshman year,” Hamblin said. “It’s really encouraged me to pursue a career in culinary arts and go on and learn as much as I can.”

The class demonstration lead to Simyal offering Hazard a chance to train at Tomo under him and the other chefs on staff.

“I feel like with the training I’ve had from this class, I could open a restaurant and be semi-successful,” Hazard said.

Joshua Kellogg covers education for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627.

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