The after-school Barbecue Club at Caruthers High is feeding the community and teaching students to be masters of the grill and their own lives.
Caruthers High teacher Alex Gutierrez says a good barbecue starts with charcoal: "Gas is alright but charcoal has a better taste to it. Just make sure we got a hot grill, everything's seasoned up really well and just start slapping it on." Gutierrez started the after school BBQ 101 Club to broaden his students' palates and practical skills, "Tri tip, ribs, chicken, chicken wings those are the things we started doing because the kids don't really get a lot of that at home."
We asked freshman and club member Marco Gonzalez: "Did you know how to barbecue?" "No. I did not," he answered. "Did you know how to cook?" He smiled, "No. This is my first time." Students like Marco had to start from scratch, learning how to read a recipe. Now he's so comfortable in the kitchen, his family regularly makes requests for tri tip for dinner. He says the club has reinforced math and measuring skills, organization and planning, and teamwork.
As the food aromas spread, so did the barbecue club's reputation. Soon they were asked to cater events and fundraisers. Last night was their 8th event of the year -- feeding hundreds at their school's academic awards. Fellow freshman and club member Fatima Razon described the pressure of having to cook for so many: "We're all kinda really nervous about whether it's going to get done. But in the end everything turns out smoothly and we get things done. It's a lot of fun. It feels really good, makes me feel good about myself, and about my team and what we do."
The next step--taking advantage of the working farm on campus. So their meals are literally farm to table... or in their case, the grill. They're well on their way -- the FFA students raised a pig on campus, the club bought it through the fair auction, had it butchered, and then the kids grilled up the ribs and pork chops!
Their menus extend beyond barbecue. While I was visiting, they made me and my photographer a plate of spaghetti and meatballs with chicken parmesan. The 3-year-old club is funded by Fresno County after school programs, and in order to keep it going they need a certain number of students enrolled.