USS Hopper Sailors lend their cooking talents to local students

Culinary Specialist Seaman Tara Wooten (right) helps students at Radford High School prepare Bananas Foster.

Story and photo by Brandon Bosworth

Staff Writer

Students at Radford High School’s culinary classes had their days sweetened a bit when Sailors from the USS Hopper (DDG 70) visited to assist in making the classic New Orleans dessert Bananas Foster.

“We were looking for activities out in the community to do while our ship is in drydock,” said Culinary Specialist 3rd Class Jessica McCaskill. “Coming to the school was one of the options.”

McCaskill said they decided to do a cooking demonstration.

“We’re culinary specialists, and we wanted to teach something we learned and are excited about.”

Bananas Foster originated at Brennan’s Restaurant in New Orleans and is made from bananas and vanilla ice cream, with the sauce made from butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, and rum.

“When I was in high school, I saw a chef at an expo make Bananas Foster,” said Culinary Specialist Seaman Tara Wooten. “We chose to make it for the students because it’s something different, and the fact you flame the sauce makes it more exciting.”

Wooten really enjoyed cooking for the Radford students.

“I wish someone had come to my high school culinary class to do something like this,” Wooten said.

The Sailors chose to demonstrate how to make Bananas Foster on Monday and help the students make their own batches on Tuesday and Wednesday. At any given time, McCaskill and Wooten were overseeing five or six different cooking stations as students chopped bananas, measured ingredients and combined them all in large industrial skillets.

How did the students’ culinary creations measure up?

“They did good,” said McCaskill. “If they made mistakes they improvised and fixed them. Everything came out very nice.”

Teacher Jamie Kahalewai was happy to welcome the Sailors to her classroom.

“It’s been a positive experience,” she said. “And it’s good for me to have the extra help. The more eyes the better!”

McCaskill said, “We are just grateful for this opportunity.”

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Category: News