Superintendent Jim Vaszauskas spends most of his day guiding the bustling Mansfield school district. On Thursday night, he was focused on flipping the perfect crepe.
“Booyah!” he exclaimed, as his pastry flew out of the skillet and then landed neatly back on the other side.
Vaszauskas was one of a handful of adult education students who signed up for the Diners, Drive-ins and Dives cooking class at Ben Barber Innovation Academy, learning to put a gourmet spin on comfort food.
“A lot of adults know how to cook, but they always learn something,” said Chef Adair Smith, who teaches at culinary classes at Ben Barber and a series of adult education classes.
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Adults can sign up for a variety of classes through the Mansfield school district, ranging from simple car care to art.
“Our goal is to offer classes for the community that are fun and encourage individual growth,” said Christie Alfred, executive director of curriculum and instruction for the district. “Some are one-night classes, some are seven or eight nights.”
Culinary and welding classes always fill up, Alfred said, as well as a conversational Spanish class that was offered last year. While most classes are taught by Ben Barber instructors at the campus, cardio dance, art sculpture and glass fusion are held at Timberview High School and Legacy High School hosted an adult ed cooking class.
Cost for the classes range from $30-$125, enough to cover the fee for the instructor, Alfred said. Classes need a minimum number of people to register. Registration is available at www.mansfieldisd.org/page.cfm?p=5570.
Claire and Joel Verinder use Smith’s cooking classes as date nights.
“We took the Cajun cooking class last year and had a lot of fun with it,” Claire Verinder said. “We have three kids and don’t always get to cook together.”
For Mimi and Mike Leasor, the class was a chance to learn some new skills.
“Gravy,” said Mimi Leasor. “I’ve never really made gravy. We both like to cook.”
Mike Leasor had his eye on the hamburger promised in a future class, while Vaszauskas was all about the ribeye steak with shallot demi-glace.
“I love to cook,” Vaszauskas said. “I liked the menu he was going to do. The cool thing is we get to work with the students.”
Smith’s top students Brittany Thomas and Ally Turner were on hand to assist the chef and his students with a helping hand and encouragement.
“When you’re at home and cooking, you have to do a lot of prep work,” Smith said. “We take that away. We do a lot of that.”
And the chef makes things for the adult ed students to try while they cook, in addition to the dishes they create. Students snacked on fried macaroni cheese balls while waiting for their lemon posset with blueberry coulis to chill. Next they learned to create crepes, then stuffed them with brisket, oven-roasted tomatoes, shredded pepper jack cheese and Cajun cream sauce.
Class participants tasted, sampled and then packed up their leftovers to take home.
The district has added some new classes this year, too, including a daddy/daughter cooking class and pizza with a parent.
“We continue to try to promote basic computer knowledge,” Alfred said. “We have kicked around ideas for aerobics for seniors, how to use an iPhone. As we grow, we will look at things for students, like babysitting and first aid.”