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Brampton high school puts its kitchen drama to the test

If this were your typical reality television show, the Grillmaker wouldn't be in the kitchen to make friends. The Super Server would be doing whatever it takes to win.

But this is not a typical reality show.

The participants are younger – high school students – and mostly friends rather than cut-throat rivals. And rather than eating bugs or scrounging wood for a fire, they're cooking gourmet-style food over gas-powered grills.

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The show, Cardinal's Highschool Cafe, is a six-part reality television series about a student-run café inside Brampton's Cardinal Leger Secondary School. The pilot episode premiered on Rogers TV last Monday, and will air every week with a one-hour series finale on Oct. 8.

And while all the tropes of your typical reality show are certainly here – the tension, the confessional segments – Cardinal's Highschool Cafe is, at its core, an authentic look at restaurant life, as seen through the eyes of teenage boys and girls.

Each episode focuses primarily on a particular student and his or her role. For example, producers dubbed student Chris Kelloway the "Grillmaster" for his skill cooking N.Y. steak in the opening episode, while fellow student Alexia Bowen earned the title of "Perfect Plater" for her role in episode two.

At times, conflicts carry through multiple episodes. Super Server Temara Fortella spars with her friend Ms. Bowen in episode two, who is too slow at plating dishes, upsetting the cafe's customers. The next episode focuses on Ms. Fortella's side of the story, where she comes to the realization that, in the kitchen, her friends are "sometimes the ones that challenge her the most."

It's an education few other students can claim to have experienced – and hospitality and tourism teacher Kerry Greco is hoping the series will showcase her students' talents to those outside of the school community as they head to higher education and real jobs.

"Not every school has as program like this," says Ms. Greco. "Ours is the only one that has our own cafe that serves to the public and staff."

Cardinal's Cafe is a fully-functioning restaurant inside the school, which serves gourmet, three-course meals.

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"You get to cook stuff here that chefs in big restaurants are cooking," says Ms. Bowen in the series' second episode, as she prepares dishes of pork medallion, and chicken with white sauce and pepper.

As the promo for the show says: This isn't your mother's Home Ec class. During the series someone is badly cut and gets medical treatment, and another student has a Hell's Kitchen-style meltdown, tears and all.

In the series finale, the students put their skills to the test and cater a dinner at Cardinal Leger principal Dolores Proietti's house.

"It's unbelievable to me because they're not college kids, they're high school kids," Ms. Proietti said.

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