There’s always something cooking in the kitchen of Penny Schram-Browner’s culinary classroom at Palmer High School. That’s part of Browner’s southern charm — her passion for teaching students that there’s much more to cooking than her classroom.

 

“Our goal as educators is to show them that they can work in restaurants,” Browner said. “They [can] work with Princess, they can have their food trucks — there’s multiple things they can do. We need to start preparing our young people in the state of Alaska to provide and fill those job slots that we have here.”

 

Browner’s charisma carries over in her cooking, something she says she hasn’t ever had actual formal training for but plenty of experience in learning from one of the best.

 

“My grandmother began teaching me when I was 4 years old and I’ve never read a recipe in my whole life,” Browner said. “I usually just do a little bit of this and a little bit of that.”

 

A little bit of competition goes a long way for Browner and her students. Earlier this year, they won third place in a statewide culinary competition, something that hadn’t been done at Palmer High School in more than 10 years. Students in the competition earned around $17,000 in scholarships.

 

“I’m not going to be shy, I was super excited,” she said.

 

So what’s her secret ingredient to success?

 

“A lot of it is just passion [and] building that relationship with those students,” Browner said. “I believe in my heart if you cannot build a relationship with that student, then they are not going to give you everything you want to pull out of them.”

 

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