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Education Wrapped in a Dumpling

Falcon Middle School students received more than lunch at Lucky Dumpling, Chef Brother Luck gave them a sneak peek into the culinary world.

Chef Brother Luck talks to FMS studentsMore than 20 FMS students attended a fun and educational mini course at Lucky Dumpling before the Thanksgiving break. This year, FMS provided 38 different mini courses over a two-day period, each offering exposure to opportunities, careers, and skills that could shape their future, said Executive Principal Brian Smith. 

The focused, sample-sized classes are a tradition that reach back more than 20 years. “When I started as principal 11 years ago, teachers asked that we bring them back,” Smith said. “We want our students to experience and explore different interests and opportunities to help them start thinking about future careers and skills they want to pursue and use in their future. Learning on these days is very strong. Students really enjoy these days and take full advantage of these opportunities to build skills, new relationships with staff and other students, and embrace different types of learning in a non-traditional way.” 

Some of the mini courses offered this year included exploring the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, creating an 8-bit video game, fishing and archery, a World War II lesson, knitting, Victorian Tea, Cave of the Winds, Olympic museum, rock climbing, golfing, ghost hunting, graphic design, JROTC, cooking a Thanksgiving meal, and many more. Several of the courses are repeated each year because of the high level of interest from students.

Concentrating on a dumpling“Building relationships with students is an important component of our jobs as teachers, and the mini courses allow us to make meaningful connections based on shared interests,” said Katie Poulson, sixth-grade science teacher at FMS. “The mini courses also allow students to connect with local community members who are experts in their field, like locally-based business owner and chef, Brother Luck. Additionally, there are so many options for amazing careers not requiring a college education. This gives students a chance to learn more about career options, like being a chef and owning a business.”

Before going to Lucky Dumpling, Poulson and the students watched several cooking shows on which Chef Luck participated, including “Top Chef,” “Chopped,” and his victory on “Beat Bobby Flay.”

At the restaurant, students took a front-row seat to the open kitchen as Lucky Dumpling Chef Bernadette Restelli showed them how to make dumplings. Each student helped fill dumplings with a tasty chicken mixture. Chef Luck sneaked in, surprising several class members as he sat next to them.

Luck told the students he wanted to be a chef because, “I never wanted to be hungry. I’m a big guy. I like to eat.” But he added, “As a chef, I could live anywhere in the world, and always have a job.”

That was only the beginning of the wisdom and experience he shared with the students as they peppered him with questions about the television shows. “TV shows are fun, but just remember it’s TV, it’s not real cooking like being in a restaurant. It’s meant for entertainment.”

FMS students making dumplingsIn discussing his appearance on “Chopped,” he told them, “I thought for sure I had won.” But he was chopped. “The cool part about that, you never lose, you only learn. That’s the best way to look at losses. That’s where experience comes from. That’s where knowledge comes from.”

When a student questioned him about beating Bobby Flay, Luck quickly smiled and said, “It was awesome.”  

Asked about advice for those interested in becoming a chef, Luck told the students, “If you want to become a chef, I want you to think bigger. Being a chef is a piece of it. I want you to be an owner, I want you to be an entrepreneur, to think outside the box. Don’t just become the chef, own the restaurant. There is no reason you can’t think that big.”

Luck also sprinkled in some reality. “But it is hard work being in the kitchen. A lot of this job is reputation. Making 1,000 dumplings. Slicing 1,000 carrots. Chopping 1,000 mushrooms. You are going to do that on a regular basis. You are going to be on your feet 12 to 16 hours a day, because it never ends. People are always eating. You always have to get ready for the next part. But it’s a lot of fun.”

Luck began his career in a culinary arts program in high school. He said, “It has worked for me. I’ve traveled the world. I own my businesses. All because I got into cooking.”

Poulson said about the purpose of the mini courses, “Making connections to the real world is a key part of students learning.  Connections to classroom content and learning from local community members helps students to understand that what we are learning every day in the classroom are not isolated experiences.” Seeing a teaching moment, she asked Luck about the connection between science and cooking.

“When you talk about science and food, they go hand in hand,” Luck said. “Biology … you need to know the anatomy of animals. You need to know how the sugar in muscles is going to brown as you add heat to them. Osmosis … we add salt to cabbage to extract the water out. These are things we learn in science class, but apply to food.”             

More questions came from the students, including one about mistakes.

“I mess up on creating new dishes all the time,” Luck said. “But that’s the thing about cooking, you work through it until you figure it out. ‘I like it this way, or that way.’ I’m working on a dish for tonight which is pork, chilis, apples, and potatoes. I’m trying to put it all together until I like it. I’m cooking it over and over until I get it to where I want it. Just keep playing with it. That’s the beauty of your job, experiment.”

eating dumplingsOne of the goals of the mini courses is to expose students to new opportunities and showcase education, Luck understood that. “Cooking is an amazing opportunity,” he said. “You have the chance to constantly learn. You can’t learn everything about food, no matter where you go in the world. There are too many cultures, too many ingredients, too many techniques. You can spend your whole life studying food, and you’ll barely scratch the surface.”

“One of our main goals as educators should be to foster the desire in our students to be lifelong learners in all aspects of their life experiences,” Poulson said, reflecting on Luck’s words.

Though most of the day was about being a chef, one student asked about marketing, specifically how to pick a business logo.

“With a logo you want something that is very clear on what you do,” Luck said. “When people drive by and see it, or see it on a shirt, do they recognize what it is? When you are designing logos, you don’t want them too busy. You want them to say what it is, who you are. For Lucky Dumpling, you drive by our building, you go ‘Oh, dumplings.’

After the questions, Luck took time for a group photo and plenty of selfies with the students. Chef Restelli and staff cooked chicken dumplings with a peanut butter sauce and served them to the students.

While eating dumplings, FMS student Destiny Thomas talked about the mini courses. “I like how we get to choose whichever course we want.” Destiny is considering a career in cooking and baking. “I liked spending time with Brother Luck, and seeing a professional chef right in front of me,” she said. “I learned some new tricks. I’ve never made dumplings.” Thinking about how she will attempt to make them at home, “I’ll probably try beef and maybe some seafood.” Destiny also attended the Culinary Crash Course on day two of the mini courses.

FMS students at Lucky DumplingSixth-grader Adriel Rodriguez said the time at Lucky Dumpling was entertaining. “I learned you can really take anything and make it into a dish in cooking.” He also participated in the Career Path in Sports mini course on day two, which included a tour of Weidner Field in downtown Colorado Springs as well as meeting Switchback players and staff. He likes the mini courses because, “it is something new that I haven’t seen before. It’s something to experience.”

“This is our future,” Chef Luck said, referring to the students as they ate dumplings for lunch. “Our job as business owners, as leaders, as community members is to constantly inspire. These are our future customers, our future workers. It is even more important to give them good information, so they are excited about their opportunities when they get to that next level.”

His statement perfectly exemplified the purpose of the mini courses.

“We work to help ignite curiosity and innovation, so that students can begin to think about the future paths that may be available to them,” Smith said. “The idea for mini courses was to help students explore and prepare for the future.”

Check out all the photos from Lucky Dumpling and the other mini courses...