Budding chefs at Smith Voc branch out by opening new food truck

Brenda Fortin, one of the chefs at Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School, helps junior Jorjia Young  cook one of the items on the menu on opening day of the culinary  program’s new food truck. The truck will be open in front of the school Friday morning and for Friday night’s fall festival.

Brenda Fortin, one of the chefs at Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School, helps junior Jorjia Young cook one of the items on the menu on opening day of the culinary program’s new food truck. The truck will be open in front of the school Friday morning and for Friday night’s fall festival. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Kara McLaughlin, of Northampton, gets her order from Amarylis Lopez, a junior in the culinary program at Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School. The new food truck opened for business Wednesday and will be open in front  of the school Friday morning and for Friday night’s fall festival.

Kara McLaughlin, of Northampton, gets her order from Amarylis Lopez, a junior in the culinary program at Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School. The new food truck opened for business Wednesday and will be open in front of the school Friday morning and for Friday night’s fall festival. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Jorjia Young, a junior in the culinary program at Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School,  makes an order of breakfast crepes on opening day of the program’s new food truck. The truck will be open in front of the school Friday morning and for Friday night’s fall festival.

Jorjia Young, a junior in the culinary program at Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School, makes an order of breakfast crepes on opening day of the program’s new food truck. The truck will be open in front of the school Friday morning and for Friday night’s fall festival. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Tim Lovett, of Northampton, gets his order of French toast from Amarylis Lopez, a junior in the culinary program at Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School. “I was driving by and I saw the truck,” said Lovett. “I love supporting the community.” The truck will be open in front of the school Friday morning and for Friday night’s fall festival.

Tim Lovett, of Northampton, gets his order of French toast from Amarylis Lopez, a junior in the culinary program at Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School. “I was driving by and I saw the truck,” said Lovett. “I love supporting the community.” The truck will be open in front of the school Friday morning and for Friday night’s fall festival. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

An order of breakfast crepes made by students in Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School’s culinary program.

An order of breakfast crepes made by students in Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School’s culinary program. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Amarylis Lopez, a junior in the culinary program at Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School, asks about an order on opening day of the program’s new food truck. The truck will be open in front of the school Friday morning and for Friday night’s fall festival.

Amarylis Lopez, a junior in the culinary program at Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School, asks about an order on opening day of the program’s new food truck. The truck will be open in front of the school Friday morning and for Friday night’s fall festival. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Tim Lovett, of Northampton, gets his order of French toast from Amarylis Lopez, a junior in the culinary program at Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School. “I was driving by and I saw the truck,” said Lovett. “I love supporting the community.” The truck will be open in front of the school Friday morning and for Friday night’s fall festival.

Tim Lovett, of Northampton, gets his order of French toast from Amarylis Lopez, a junior in the culinary program at Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School. “I was driving by and I saw the truck,” said Lovett. “I love supporting the community.” The truck will be open in front of the school Friday morning and for Friday night’s fall festival. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

The menu for the new food truck at  Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School. The truck, which is a new addition to the school’s culinary program, will be open in front of the school Friday morning and for Friday night’s fall festival.

The menu for the new food truck at Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School. The truck, which is a new addition to the school’s culinary program, will be open in front of the school Friday morning and for Friday night’s fall festival. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Jorjia Young, a junior in the culinary program at Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School,  makes an order of breakfast crepes on opening day of the program’s new food truck. The truck will be open in front of the school Friday morning and for Friday night’s fall festival.

Jorjia Young, a junior in the culinary program at Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School, makes an order of breakfast crepes on opening day of the program’s new food truck. The truck will be open in front of the school Friday morning and for Friday night’s fall festival. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

By ALEXANDER MACDOUGALL

Staff Writer

Published: 10-19-2023 1:00 PM

NORTHAMPTON — A stove and oven, along with a 36-inch grill and deep fryers, are just some of the equipment inside Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School’s new food truck, which launched on Wednesday, staffed by students in the school’s culinary program.

The school acquired the food truck with money from a $500,000 Capital Skills Grant awarded by the state last year. Nelson Lacey, who leads the culinary program at Smith Vocational, said the truck will give the school’s culinary students a chance to learn a fast-growing part of the food service industry.

“We thought it would be useful from a curriculum standpoint, to teach students different business models and opportunities,” Lacey said. “We’re trying to stay current with industry trends.”

The food truck will be incorporated into the culinary students’ assignments, with seniors in teams tasked with creating restaurant design concepts using it as part of their designs. The truck’s multifaceted cooking capabilities exceeds that of most commercial food trucks, Lacey said, allowing students to gain practice on many different aspects of cooking in one.

The food truck launched for business Wednesday, offering residents another dining option at Smith Vocational along with the Oliver Smith Restaurant, complete with outdoor tables beside the truck. The food truck began by serving several brunch options, such as crepes, French toast and apple pie turnovers, with plans to continuously change up its menu.

Akara Holder, a paraprofessional and basketball coach at the vocational school, was one of its first customers, ordering a $4 warm apple cider.

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“It’s a nice, chilly day out,” Holder said. “Perfect for some apple cider.”

Lacey said the food truck is also planned to be used at community events and fundraisers, such the school’s fall festival event on Friday, a Girls in Trade event to be held at Dean Tech in Holyoke, and a Veterans Day event in Amherst.

“We’ve gotten numerous requests, but we’re having to balance against the curriculum,” Lacey said.

Brenda Fortin, an instructor in the culinary program, also assisted the students in running the food truck and trained them on preparing the brunch-inspired menu. Fortin teaches a course on foundations and restaurant management, and incorporates the lessons learned by students into their food truck experience.

“The unit this week and the previous week was breakfast cookery,” Fortin said. “That’s why we’re doing brunch.”

One of the students staffing the food truck on its first day serving the public was Amaryllis Lopez, a junior in the culinary program. She said students were excited to gain experience working on the truck.

“It’s completely different from being in a kitchen and serving dining,” Lopez said. “It’s way more quicker, and I feel like it’s a little bit more stressful in the food truck.”

Despite the extra challenge, Lopez said she enjoys working in it.

“I love being here, and my teammates love to be here too,” she said. “You get to cook and you get to try your own stuff, and other people get to try our things. That’s the funnest part.”

Alexander MacDougall can be reached at amacdougall@gazettenet.com.