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The City Journals

Eisenhower Jr. serves up fine dining manners

Apr 01, 2019 03:30PM ● By Jet Burnham

By Jet Burnham | [email protected]

Teens often get a bad rap for lacking good manners, but ninth-graders from Eisenhower Junior High School have demonstrated they have the skills to successfully pull off a fine-dining experience.

 “Learning etiquette helps break that stereotype to show that we are just like adults,” said Brandon Sorensen, a ninth-grader.

Their manners are tested during a fine-dining field trip to La Caille.

Etiquette is part of the curriculum in FACS (Family and Consumer Sciences) classes at Eisenhower, but all ninth-graders get a crash course in fine dining manners from a representative from the restaurant the day before the annual field trip. 

“Students participate in what they have learned at school through the five-course dinner,” said FACS teacher Melodie Garcia, who heads up the annual field trip. “My hope for this experience is the students have an enjoyable night with their peers at a fine-dining establishment. This usually is a highlight of their high school experience.”

Megan Clark, another FACS teacher, said most students won’t have the opportunity again to eat at such an expensive restaurant.

“It’s an amazing experience for those students,” she said. “They have an opportunity to see food in a different way.”

Some students didn’t recognize potatoes when they were presented in an artistic pattern, and many were surprised to find they liked the asparagus, a vegetable that is often snubbed by picky eaters.

Peer pressure was a factor in students trying new foods such as the escargot. Kaitlyn Hansen tried her escargot even though she was sure she wouldn’t like the texture.

“I didn’t really taste it, I just swallowed it,” she said. “I can say I ate a snail, but I can’t recollect it.”

Everyone at Brandon’s table tried their escargot.

“Once you first see it, everyone was like, ‘Ew, that’s really disgusting,’” he said. “But once the first person tried it and acted like it was really good, everyone tried it. We were all filming each other’s reactions.”

Overall, students enjoyed the brined chicken, potato puree, romaine salad and raspberry sorbet they were served. 

“It’s small portions that you want more of,” said Nativadad Unsworth.

Kaitlyn said besides tasting fancy foods, she enjoyed the social aspect of the event.

“I went there acquainted with some people and came back as friends,” she said.

Brandon said that when the cell phones came out for group pictures, school cliques dissolved and everyone was included as if they had been friends for years.

Students look forward to the event, hearing about it from older friends and siblings. It is a privilege that all ninth-graders must earn by maintaining good grades and citizenship. Ninth-grade teachers use the trip as incentive for students to stay on track for graduation. This year, 242 students qualified, and 185 of them attended the event.

While the PTSA pays for the buses to transport them, students are responsible for paying the $30 for their meal. 

Eisenhower’s tradition of etiquette night at La Caille began in 1988 when FACS teacher Chris Moore, who taught at Eisenhower for 30 years, approached the restaurant owners. She knew a real-life application of etiquette skills would be a more impactful lesson for her students.

Moore said La Caille representatives were unsure at first if teenagers could handle the experience, but when the experiment was successful, they opened up the opportunity to other school groups from all over the valley to come and experience the beautiful grounds and elegant dining.

Garcia believes etiquette is a life skill students need to be able to present themselves well when they are invited to dinner by a prospective employer or college recruiter.

“I want these kids to walk away and have a grown-up conversation with someone else and be able to act appropriately in a social setting,” she said.

Garcia is impressed every year how students rise to the expectations of good behavior. They expand their social circles, and they support each other to have a good experience.

“This is why I do this,” Garcia said. “They’ll remember this for the rest of their lives. I am so proud of my students and their hard work during their ninth-grade year. My kids might not remember everything that they have learned in my class, but they will remember how magical the night was for them.”