Food and Finance High School

Phone: (212) 586-2943
Website: Click here
Admissions: Citywide
Wheelchair accessible
Noteworthy Special Education
Neighborhood: West Midtown
District: 2
Grade range: 09 thru 12
Parent coordinator: CARMEN MERCADO

What's special:

Fabulous culinary program; garden and fish farm

The downside:

Academics could be more rigorous

The InsideStats


Our review

For students serious about learning to cook, Food and Finance High School offers a hands-on introduction to the restaurant business and food industry. The school, housed in the Park West Educational Complex, has become one of the most popular in the city, with thousands of applicants for about 100 9th grade seats.

Students grow fruits, vegetables and tilapia in labs in the school set up by Cornell University's Cooperative Extension. The food is sold at farmer's markets and used for catering special events. Seniors have paid internships at restaurants like Ililly, The Food Network, or Amy's Bakery. (Some students told us they opt out of the internships because their love of cooking fades when they realize how stressful restaurant work can be!)

We saw some inspired teaching during our visit, like in sophomore English class working to tease out a backstory for the mysterious narrator in Edgar Allen Poe's classic "A Telltale Heart." For social studies class, students compared French public school lunch menus to their own (and found they preferred the French two-hour lunch break!). A Living Environment class grows a hydroponic garden. Students take four years of art and one year of French--an important language to understand if you're serious about cuisine.

But a very bright student may find the academics are not challenging enough. Most students we spoke to said they do little homework, even in Advanced Placement classes. Work we saw on our visit shows that some students struggle with basic writing skills. "The school is not that hard if you just pay attention and do your work," one senior said.

Students can take three years of math -- the highest level regularly offered is trigonometry. (Special arrangements can be made to take calculus, said Jessica Mates, the school's community liaison.)

As a career and technical education (CTE) school, Food and Finance offers students the chance to earn three food-handling certifications (ServSafe, ProStart and NYC Food Handlers). Mates said the certifications help students get real world jobs. For example, she said, local restaurants often call her looking for grads with NYC Food Handlers certification.

Student wear uniforms of black or khaki bottoms and blue or white polos emblazoned with the school's name and matching chef's dress in the kitchen. Everyone must pass through a metal detector on the way in. Cell phones are not allowed but students may leave them at the door for a small fee. Some students have lockers. No one may leave the building for lunch.

Special education: About 20 percent of students receive special education services. The school creates plenty of opportunities for special needs students, said Mates. They may participate in the senior internship program and take AP classes. Some academic and cooking classes are co-taught, meaning those classes have two instructors, one certified in special education. The school has also found success using the Achieve 3000 online program. Food and Finance graduates an impressive number of special needs students. The Park West building is wheelchair accessible.

College: Most graduates go to college, including cooking schools like Culinary Institute of America and Johnson and Wales.

Admissions: Citywide, limited unscreened, with preference to students who attend the school's open house. "The only thing that's difficult is if the kids don't want to cook," said Mates. "They can't just like to eat." (Anna Schneider, December 2012)

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