Northeast High School's Culinary Arts Academy trains students to land chef jobs at top restaurants

The high school's NEHI Bistro is open to public

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Jordan Bearden could barely make breakfast for herself four years ago.

“I was burning pancakes on one side, they were raw on the other,” says the senior at Northeast High School in St. Petersburg. “My omelets were turning into scrambled eggs!”

But thanks to her school’s Culinary Arts Academy, Jordan was just accepted into Johnson & Wales, one of the best culinary schools in the country.

“It’s kind of nice to be totally in control of something,” says the 18-year-old as she prepares lunch.

The Culinary Academy has a large classroom kitchen. Even more impressive is the working restaurant out front called NEHI Bistro. It is open to the public on Wednesdays with students serving a three-course meal for $10.

The Academy is run by Curtis Serata, the former chef at Cassis American Brasserie. He took over the program a few years ago.

Running a classroom is tough work. Running a restaurant with those same students can be very stressful. 

But Chef Serata learned screaming a la Gordon Ramsay is not the answer in this eatery.

“I try to be as even-keeled as I can." said Serata. "A lot of times I have to hold back because these kids are only 15 to 18 years old.”

With the foodie-craze culture taking over Tampa Bay and the whole country, there is a growing waiting list of students trying to get into the Culinary Arts Academy. 

Jordan Bearden says the program can offer more than teaching fellow students how to make food.

After Hurricane Irma, the Bistro opened its doors to neighbors struggling without food and electricity.

On that day, it was all about “giving them this sense of community where they can all come together in one spot and have a conversation over a warm plate of food.”

To make a reservation for the NEHi Bistro, contact Chef Serata at pcsb.org/domain/1371.

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