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Culinary High School's Kitchens Haven't Worked Since Summer, Officials Say

By Maya Rajamani | December 1, 2016 2:58pm
 The building at 525 W. 50th St., between 10th and 11th avenues, that houses Food and Finance High School.
The building at 525 W. 50th St., between 10th and 11th avenues, that houses Food and Finance High School.
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DNAinfo/Maya Rajamani

HELL’S KITCHEN — The city's only culinary high school has been without working kitchens since the summer, leaving students with "no idea why they are there," officials said.

All six of the kitchens at Food and Finance High School at 525 W. 50th St. were up and running when the school turned them over to the city's School Construction Authority in June, said Nan Shipley, chairwoman of a nonprofit called the Food Education Fund, which funds the school. 

After the SCA carried out work that included fixing the kitchen’s grease traps, however, the kitchens were no longer functional, Shipley wrote in a widely circulated email Tuesday.

Students who attend the school, located between 10th and 11th avenues, normally learn how to cook and train for culinary and scholarship competitions inside the classroom-kitchens, she noted.

“Our students are being deprived [of] their rights,” she wrote. “Our freshmen have no idea why they are at the school.”

Five of the six kitchens are currently out of order, and the sixth can only be used on a limited basis, Chalkbeat reported.

On Tuesday, the school’s Twitter account — which says it’s run by the Food Education Fund — implored the city’s Department of Education to fix the kitchens.

The school’s principal, Roger Turgeon, sent an email to school staff and SCA officials that same day saying he spoke with an FDNY inspector on Nov. 17 who told him the school couldn’t use the kitchens due to a number of existing violations.

SCA officials later told him the kitchens could be used, but the school hasn't been able to get any of the equipment to work, he wrote.

“How can we possibly solve this so we can get students back on track and be respectful of our obligation?” Turgeon’s email asked in all caps. “What is amazing to me at this point is that everyone knows how this is affecting the education of my students, and no one is stepping up and saying, ‘How can we make this happen?’”

Turgeon did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday.

DOE spokeswoman Toya Holness said Thursday that “the necessary repairs are being completed, and we expect all of the kitchens to be fully operational in the next month, pending an inspection by the FDNY.

“We will continue working closely with the school as we monitor the situation and provide ongoing support,” she added.

Holness could not immediately explain what caused the kitchen equipment to stop working.

In his email, Turgeon claimed the SCA told the school’s custodian the issues were caused by an “equipment problem” for which the authority wasn’t responsible.

“If I could pick up the phone and get an army of people here to assess and repair all of this, I would do it at the drop of a hat,” Turgeon wrote. “Unfortunately, I don’t have that kind of power, but my next step will be to do my best to find someone or many who do.”