Students Achieve Success in Culinary Program Aiming for State Championship

Ben Barber Innovation Academy culinary students prep for the state championship

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Students attending the Ben Barber Innovation Academy in Mansfield are preparing for a major statewide academic competition next week, the first since the pandemic started.

Knives in school get everyone's attention. but the razor-sharp tools are an essential part of this classroom where excuses aren't tolerated and the expectations are high.

"This is my second year. I started last year after playing football," said Travis Hill, who traded his helmet for a hairnet and has never looked back after joining the culinary program at his school.

The kitchen and the field weren't much different for Travis. 

"We practice every day," he said. "It's an endless amount of knowledge to learn in culinary. I've learned a lot."

The students learn at different levels. On the day we visited it was blueberry muffins for the beginners, steak for Travis, and then there was Logan.

"We're studying restaurant management, building a concept for a restaurant, floor plan, the menu, and even the marketing tactics," said Logan Ceraul, another student in the program.

The kid who liked watching YouTube videos of people cooking wants to develop new flavors for a corporation one day.  

There's a spot for everyone in the Ben Barber Innovation Academy in Mansfield ISD where the goal is to prepare the next generation of restaurant leaders in the front and back of the house.

Chef David Roberson runs the program and went to school for accounting but always knew it wasn't something he would love.

He fell into cooking, after playing football, just like his student Travis. 

The group won state competitions in 2019 in both cooking and management -- a first in more than 10 years.

They go back next week to try again in the first competition since the pandemic. 

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