The buzz of excitement could be felt upon entering the school grounds. Empty classrooms and corridors were once again filled with students and staff- eagerly greeting each other after weeks of lockdown due to the Coronavirus. Life was finally getting back to normal, albeit in carefully calculated stages.
The first priority was to return all grade 11 and 12 students to school so they could prepare for their matriculation exams and finish the term. The stakes were high, especially for students at CHW Netanya Technological High School. Many struggled for years to fit in or find a supportive environment that caters to their special needs and circumstances. Then, COVID-19 only exacerbated the socio-economic disparities and challenges that students struggle with. For many, conditions at home were not conducive to remote learning. This was especially true for those in vocational programs, like the Patisserie Track, who depend on hands-on training and specialized equipment only available at school.
Despite the many obstacles and weeks away from school, the Patisserie students quickly bounced back into action- just ahead of their Matriculation Exams. The Patisserie Exam requires no pens or paper, only finished products. Students are given 48 hours to prepare a selection of baked goods which are evaluated and graded by an external team of professionals.
The examination hall could easily be mistaken for a high-end hotel dining room. Every corner was filled with unique displays of professionally baked delicacies. Tri-colored mousses, elaborate eclairs and decadent cookies were showcased alongside beautiful baguettes, creamy quiches and the classic potato puffed-pastry.
As the exam officially began, a Patisserie instructor pointed to one display and declared:
“This is not a cheesecake! This is the culmination of two years of devotion and hard work!”
A quick glance beyond the exquisite, lemon zest cheesecake and one could fully appreciate this truth.
Clearly, every cake is as unique as its creator.
Like Sami, an 11th grade Patisserie student who created the showpiece cheesecake along with an array of magnificent meringues, flawless churros, donuts, and a fresh batch of whole wheat pita. Sami had never baked before joining the program. Born in Israel to newly immigrated parents from Ethiopia, Sami grew up with many hardships. School was tough and Sami never had much confidence or self-esteem. He developed unhealthy habits and filled much of the void in his life by eating junk food.
A few months ago, Sami decided it was time for change. He slowly discovered his talents and a passion for baking. He felt supported and ready to step out of the shadows. Understanding that change begins from within, Sami adopted a healthier lifestyle and diet that included daily exercise. The more he challenged himself the more his confidence grew. He even lost 60 pounds and has never felt better!
Sami’s professional baking and carefully crafted pastries reveals a patient, precise and professional master of his trade. His impeccable skills were not honed over years or perfected in the luxury of home. But his new found talent, success and self-confidence are sure to guide him towards a very bright future.
Looking back at all the impressive displays around the room, one would never guess the incredible back story of each finished product. A story of trial and error, love and loss, but also of happy endings.
Congratulations to the Class of 2020 on your remarkable achievements!
CHW Netanya Technological High School Festive Lemon Zest Cheesecake
|500 g||Cream Cheese|
|500 ml||Sour Cream|
|½ tsp.||Lemon zest (optional)|
|400 g||Petite Beurre Biscuits, crushed|
|100 g||Melted Butter|
|½ tsp||Ginger or Cinnamon (optional)|
- In a blender, crush Petit Beurre Biscuits
- Add melted butter to crushed biscuits and mix well
- Flatten into circular pie dish and leave in fridge for 20 minutes before adding topping
- Pre-heat oven at 160 degrees
- Beat first 6 ingredients in a large bowl until blended
- Add eggs and continue mixing until just blended
- Pour into crust
- Bake 40 minutes
- Cool and refrigerate 3 hours until firm
- Add lemon zest and/or seasonal berries on top (optional)