Elgin High School senior Christian Acosta said he has seen other students participate in the fall day feast in past years, but never imagined he would get the chance to help organize one.
"I would see the seniors before me in this fall feast, but I never thought I'd actually be in it," he said. "I just thought it would be something completely different besides the culinary arts program itself. When I found out that we would be doing it as seniors, it was just an incredible thought. I'd be the one helping and serving all the customers that arrive."
Students enrolled in Elgin High School's Clumsy Chef Culinary program turned up the heat Thursday, when they hosted the annual fall day feast.
The event is to raise funds to help support students who participate in the program's practical labs.
Ann Leider, culinary arts instructor, said the experience is an opportunity for students to learn restaurant skills, how to run and operate buffets and dining rooms, and how to cook food for large groups.
"It's very real world," she said.
On the menu were holiday favorites including turkey, ham, potatoes, sweet potatoes, casseroles, a full salad bar and desserts.
Acosta said being involved in the Clumsy Chefs program has been an eye-opening experience.
"At first in eighth grade, it was just 'oh, food.' You know this is what everyone thinks about it. Oh, it's just food. We get to eat free food. But, then once I actually got here my freshman year, there's so much more to it than just making food."
Acosta said he's learned about the culinary and hospitality industries at Elgin High School and is excited to put those skills to use once he graduates.
"My plan is to go to Elgin Community College and train in their culinary program along with (another major)," Acosta said.
Leider said this year's fall day feast was slated to seat as many as 150 people throughout the day.
Noting that many of her past students find themselves pursuing careers in the culinary arts, Leider said having recent graduates return to campus adds to student engagement.
"A lot of our students then continue on into different culinary schools," she said. "I try to bring them back to help out and show these students what some of their futures could look like in the industry."
Elgin resident and EHS graduate Tyra Kemper, a senior in the hospitality management program at Kendall College, said she felt compelled to take part in the event.
"This program is what inspired me and showed me the world of hospitality and that's why I'm going to Kendall now," she said.