By Lindsay Doty
Avon High School senior Colby Wagner has dreams of being a big-time chef.
“I was thinking of working on a cruise ship or cooking for a famous person,” Wagner said. “Maybe Robert Downey Jr. or Chris Evans.”
For the last year and a half, the 18-year-old aspiring chef has been taking classes at the Area 31 Career Center as part of its Early College Culinary Arts and Hospitality program. There, high schoolers learn real-world skills at the student-run Harvest restaurant while earning college credit.
“So normally I come to Area 31 in the mornings, and go back to Avon High School for my core classes,” he explains.
At the institute located in Indianapolis, chef instructors teach everything from how to properly cook a steak and chop veggies to serving and managing food in a commercial setting.
Wagner is one of 30 high school students from Hendricks County enrolled in the program.
For the second year in a row, he will work with classmates to prepare and serve a special Valentine’s dinner.
The ticketed event is open to the public and costs $60 per couple. It includes a three-course meal and flowers. Menu options include seared scallops and tiramisu.
“The students get to see and work with more expensive ingredients and food that we don’t get to work with on a daily basis,” Area 31 chef and instructor Daniel Schifano said. “The more you work with those, the better you get. They also learn etiquette, I like to call it aggressive hospitality.”
Half of the students will be in the kitchen, half will be serving.
“My favorite part of the Valentine’s Day dinner special is the fact that you get to make people happy with food,” Wagner, who is one of seven Avon students to be part of this year’s fancy dinner, said.
Last year, his family and friends attended the dinner and were impressed with the high-end cooking.
“They knew it was going to be classy but not that classy,” he recalls. “They thought it was amazing to have high schoolers make this without setting the kitchen on fire.”
The Area 31 Valentine’s dinner is Feb. 14 with seating time at 5:30, 7 and 8:30 p.m.
Find the full menu on Facebook.
All proceeds go towards student expenses.
Reservation required. Contact Elizabeth Silence at 317-988-7223 or Elizabeth.firstname.lastname@example.org.