The garden salad with strawberries, blueberries and feta cheese, the ham-and-cheese quiche and everything else got thumbs up all around.

The next step is scaling that up for 200 people.

Seventeen students in the Academies of ISD culinary program will be working to cater a large event this spring, a women’s brunch gala held by the Truman Heritage chapter of Habitat for Humanity. The brunch – April 14 at the First United Methodist Church in Blue Springs – also includes a raffle, auction and silent auction. It raises money for events such as the annual women’s build in May.

“We expect it to sell out,” said Linda Thorpe, Habitat’s faith relations coordinator.

This year, Habitat decided on a different approach. The group is already working with the Academies of ISD program – the Independence School District’s career-path program for all high school students – to have construction students work on the upcoming restoration of the old Hiram Young school.

Taking that partnership another step, Habitat decided to see if the culinary students could handle the brunch rather than use a traditional caterer.

So on Wednesday a Habitat committee sat down to the salad and quiche, plus cucumber sandwiches with chipotle sauce, chicken-and-apple sandwich wedges, cheesecake with lemon curd and blueberries and macarons and raspberry filling.

“I like the way all the flavors came together,” Thorpe said.

Trevor McPherson, a senior at Truman High School, said all the students contributed ideas for the meal. McPherson, who one day wants to own a farm-to-table restaurant, said the look and taste of the meal are both important.

“Presentation is a thing I look forward to on a plate,” he said.

Thorpe told the students, “We’re extremely excited about this. … I think this will be an awesome experience for you too.”

Teacher Jennifer Waterfield keeps the students busy – they bake items for the school district’s Taste of Independence shop on the Square – with this catering project and other work, all toward the aim of certification that can help lead to culinary school or going to work directly in the field.

“It’s pretty rigorous,” she said.