Find out what students are cooking in the ‘Taste of Liberty’ kitchen

JACKSON, Tenn. — Students are putting their spin on what a high school “hot lunch” should look and taste like in a student-run restaurant.

Although he’s an offensive lineman for the Crusaders on Friday nights, to the shock of teammates, during the school day Jordan Shirley is one of the student chefs in the Taste of Liberty kitchen.

“They was surprised that I was in the culinary, because big ole me in here cooking,” senior culinary arts student Jordan Shirley said. “But then when they got a taste of my cooking, they was like, you got something.”

Every Wednesday, these Liberty Technology students transform their classroom, into a full-service restaurant just in time for lunch.

“It just teaches you how to do different things, to learn the kitchen,” sophomore culinary student Ja’Nya Robinson said. “So like if I wanted to go home and learn things. Hey, I already did it at school.”

Some students work in this commercial kitchen prepping meals while others work on their customer service, even making lunch deliveries across campus.

“The food’s awesome,” regular customer Michelle Bryant said. “It’s only five minutes from where I live, and I’m helping support the school system and the kids, letting them learn life lessons.”

The Taste of Liberty is led by Leslie Emerson who says she’s found a new purpose in guiding her student chefs.

“Hold on ’cause I’m going to cry,” Liberty Tech culinary arts instructor Leslie Emerson said. “This is not what I set out to be, but I think this is where I belong. This is where I belong for me and this is where I belong for my students.”

Even though Wednesday’s lunch rush may get a little hectic, Emerson says it’s worth it to witness her students’ progress.

“It makes my day to see them grow like they do,” Emerson said. “Just to have them come in every day, regardless of what is going on at home or anything else. They come in, they work, they learn and they make me very proud.”

Students say this program is more than just another class.

“For the students that aren’t good in biology and them other subjects, they can always come to culinary and realize I have a passion,” Shirley said.

This culinary program may be a road to self discovery for some students. But more importantly, this kitchen is a classroom and they’re learning practical skills.

“They’re learning, ‘hey, this isn’t as easy as it looks,'” Bryant said.

“They are going to teach us how to do it right and correctly,” Robinson said. “So we won’t mess up, and we’re not just sitting there like, ‘What do we do now?’ We get it. They teach us how to do it step by step.”

For just $7 you can enjoy one of the delicious menu items, support the students and get your very own Taste of Liberty.

“Without the community we wouldn’t have a culinary program,” Emerson said.

“You need to support our school system,” Bryant said. “Especially these types of programs where they’re learning life lessons, life skills.”

The Taste of Liberty is open for business from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. every Wednesday when school is in session. The students have also started taking special orders for the Thanksgiving holiday.

Email for to-go orders.

Connect on Twitter for weekly menus: @_TasteOfLiberty

Categories: Local News, News