EARLY How about a meal that includes chicken, veloute sauce, green beans, mashed potatoes and a salad?

If you'd been in the culinary arts class recently at Early High School, that might've been offered to you. The meal was the creation of a team of three students Jarrah Joyner, Casey Jessup and Kelci LeMond who will be competing later this month at the FCCLA (Family Career and Community Leaders of America) Culinary Arts STAR (Students Taking Action for Recognition).

A second team of students McKenzie Campbell, Alice Carter and Sean Jones created their own version of a meal using the same ingredients.

And another student, Chazz Crooks, is preparing for an event called Mystery Basket.

Under the guidance of culinary arts teacher Courtney Brandstetter, the students have been practicing their skills, preparing for the meals they'll create at the Feb.15-16 competition.

Preparing for competition isn't the students' only tasks. They keep busy trying different recipes, preparing meals for a variety of events including an upcoming UIL competition.

"We learn the proper way to cook and how to keep it safe," culinary arts student Bailey Riley said.

Early superintendent Brett Koch said the school district is the beneficiary of an outstanding program. "I'm proud of our kids. I'm proud of our program," Koch said.

Koch noted that the students had recently provided an excellent meal for a school board recognition event.

The culinary arts class is part of Early High School's Family and Consumer Science department. Within the department, Brandstetter and Amanda Mitchell teach a variety of classes.

"Whenever they're cooking, they're practicing technique, but also safety and sanitation in the kitchen," Brandstetter said.

A group of culinary arts students performed well last month at the Central Texas High School Cupcake Battle. Alice Carter and Shelby Turner will advance to state competition in May.

During a recent class, several students admitted they're becoming pretty good cooks.

"I like to think so," said Kelci LeMond, one of the team members who will compete later this month. Kelci said students have learned knife safety, sanitation, how to work in the kitchen together and have learned what it takes to work in a large kitchen.

Jarah Joyner said she hadn't really cooked before taking the culinary arts class, other than "whipping something up real fast" for her family.

Jarrah said the class is fun, and like other students, believes she's turning into a good cook. ""I have my faults and imperfections but I've really broadened my horizons," Jarrah said.