WESTMINSTER — Several would-be chefs -- Carroll high school students dressed in white aprons and hats -- groan when Ron Leese garnishes a sauteed Canadian salmon filet with caviar.
"Aaarrgghhh, fish eggs," sums up oneof the students.
Undaunted, Leese, the Westminster Inn's executive chef, finishes garnishing the filet -- topped with watercress, tomato and asparagus vin blanc -- with a crayfish.
"I see a lot of diners who will pickup the crayfish and suck the meat right out of it," says Leese.
There are more groans.
The students, enrolled in the two-year food-service program at the Carroll County Career and Technology Center, are in one of the inn's kitchens, where Leese and sous-chef Kevan Vetter are preparing fish entrees.
The lesson began with Leese fileting a salmon.
"Once you get the bones off, you have to take the skinoff," Leese says. "Sometimes it comes off nicely, sometimes it doesn't."
The Westminster resident picks up the skin and shows it to the students.
"That's not too bad," he says.
Leese and Vetter arepreparing two types of salmon -- Norwegian and Canadian. Both are topped with vin blanc sauce. One is served with rice and the other withmashed potatoes, which have been mixed with egg yolks and spices andare arranged stylishly on the plate.
Besides preparing entrees, Leese and Vetter prepare a couple of appetizers for the students -- smoked salmon and a platter of cooked scallops, still in shells and garnished with chopped tomatoes and shallots.
The students are invited to try the dishes.
Sixteen-year-old Jeanette Rousso, a South Carroll High School junior, passes on the scallops and the salmon.
"I'm not a seafood-eater," the Sykesville resident explains.
The students are taught subtle differences in cooking. They learn, for example, that to saute means to cook with a little oil and high heat. Frying means cooking with lots of oil and high heat.
"You should learnto use tongs," Leese says, holding the kitchen utensil in his hand. "Tongs should be extensions of your hands."
Geneva Greene, Carroll's food services instructor, says the students take two or three field trips a year, usually to a place that complements a unit they are studying. In this case, the students have been studying fish.
"Thisgives them a better perspective on the food industry," Greene says.
During their visit, Christina Miller, the inn's restaurant manager, gave the group a tour of the former school building, which now contains 13 guest rooms, a fitness center, a formal dining area and a pub.
Leese, a 1976 graduate of North Carroll High School, serves on vo-tech's advisory committee. He relishes the idea of helping prospective chefs and cooks.
"I like to help out as much as I can," the 33-year-old says. "I think this stimulates students. It gives them a better outlook of what it's like to be a chef. It's not all glamour."
Leese was not shy about telling the students some of the long hoursand holidays he works as a chef.
Francis Scott Key High School student Sherri Helmstetter found the visit worthwhile.
"He did a really good job," says Sherri, a 16-year-old from Union Bridge. "I liked the presentation, and he was really specific about describing the cutting of the fish."