Chef cooks up positive relationships with students


Natasha Dardashti multimedia editor
Schoolwide, he is simply known as “chef.” During lunch, his doors are open to students, whether they are enrolled in his class or not. There, students can be found cooking, talking and laughing along with culinary teacher Rick Leece.
“[My favorite thing about teaching] is building the relationships with the students and actually sharing your skills and your art,” Leece said. “Some students don’t excel at math or at science or at English, but they come to the kitchen and they feel like they found where they belong. It’s just a good fit for them, even if they are just a small percentage of [students]. It is impacting somebody.”
It has been 12 years since Leece first entered the culinary industry. Following his education at Mission College, Leece worked as a sous-chef and executive chef at various catering services and restaurants, including Ruth’s Chris steakhouse.
“I went to school, but honestly, 90 percent of the things I know came from jobs and working in the industry. There, you actually learn things,” Leece said.
Though he enjoyed the exciting and high stakes atmosphere of a professional kitchen, Leece did not enjoy the management aspect he experienced when working at Ruth’s Chris. Out of all the jobs he has had so far, Leece considers teaching to be one of the more enjoyable ones.
“When I was working in the restaurants, I was cooking like 12 hours a day, and I would get home and all I would want was a bowl of cereal. It was either cereal or ice cream! I wouldn’t want to cook anymore,” Leece said.
According to sophomore Tina Hoss, his hands-on teaching style is what makes his classes so educational.
“He’s really good at teaching. His techniques and how he spends his time teaching us a problem instead of telling us the answer makes him an amazing teacher,” Hoss said.
Besides his hands-on teaching in the classroom, Leece also tries to make curriculum entertaining and easy to understand for students.
“My best memory in Chef’s class is when we first practiced for a cooking competition. Chef, the other students and I all bonded a lot during that time. It’s one of my best memories of school in general,” junior Ozzy Pendarvis said.
Leece tries to create a memorable bond with students inside and outside of the classroom. As long as he impacts one student, Leece finds teaching to be rewarding.
“I don’t want to ever demean any of my students. I want to be on the same level as them and respect them, try to earn their respect in return,” Leece said. “I don’t know if this sounds weird, but I want a brotherly relationship, or like an uncle, so they do feel comfortable connecting with me.”