HNHS digital design class takes cake with dessert menu stylings

Dustin Adamson, James Boyd, Nathan O’Connor, Trevor Brewer and Levi Caley served as project managers for Dominic Manco’s fifth period digital design projects, which provided Pizza Junction Café with four options for a new menu.
Dustin Adamson, James Boyd, Nathan O’Connor, Trevor Brewer and Levi Caley served as project managers for Dominic Manco’s fifth period digital design projects, which provided Pizza Junction Café with four options for a new menu. Photo provided.

Originally published March 21, 2013.

Most people wouldn't cover a delectable slice of gooey chocolate cake with WD-40 - but Huntington North High School digital design student Michael Ness thought a squirt of the oil spray was just what his slice needed.

Ness was styling a piece of Pizza Junction Cafe's "3-D Chocolate Fudge Cake."

He says he thought the cake needed a little more shine, so he grabbed the WD-40 and "went to town."

He also added liquid chocolate to the slice, in a tic-tac-toe formation at a diagonal, which he says made the cake "flow and pop."

Ness was styling the piece for a photograph he and his group members would take for the restaurant's new dessert menu.

His group mates and three other groups in art teacher Dominic Manco's fifth period digital design class were in charge of styling three different Pizza Junction Cafe desserts - the chocolate cake, their (seasonal) salted caramel vanilla crunch cake and their lemon cake - from the restaurant's menu. Each group competed to create the best menu design.

Of the four menus presented, Austen Dettling, co-owner of the restaurant, will choose his favorite. This menu will have the potential to be used as Pizza Junction Cafe's new menu.

Manco had four digital design classes working on food styling/food photography projects throughout the end of February and beginning of March.

Four businesses participated in the project, with each class responsible for one business. In addition to Pizza Junction Café, also participating were The Englishman's Wife, a home-based business that sells baked goods; Clear Creek Bee Farm, owned by Mike Crist, a teacher from HNHS; and Kim's Katered Affair, owned by Kim Nelson.

For each of these businesses, which the students treated as their clients, the classes performed food photography and food styling.

The smaller businesses - that are not full-fledged restaurants - required different designs, such as logos, food labels and websites, rather than a menu (as was the case for Pizza Junction Cafe).

The food was styled right in Manco's classroom, using all the techniques the students had studied and Manco's own portable photography studio.

Some of the more unusual tactics of food styling include using glue as milk; shoe polish to color raw meat; and using hairspray to revive dried out produce and of course, spraying WD-40 on cake.

This unusual assignment was part of a project-based learning (PBL) initiative. Manco's digital design classes were required to tackle the project in a real-world way.

The students learned about the food styling market, professional photography and project management.
Manco says the project was not teacher-centered, as each group had a project manager.

In his fifth period class, the project managers were sophomores Dustin Adamson; James Boyd and Nathan O'Conner; Trevor Brewer; and Levi Caley.

Each manager said he was responsible for keeping his teammates on task and filling in wherever and whenever necessary.

Each group also consisted of a product stylist, photographer, designer and business manager.

Utilizing photo editing programs was also important for the project, as Manco says the students used Adobe Photoshop to edit their photos and Adobe's graphic design software, Illustrator, to create and edit their final projects.

In addition to food styling and photography the students were also responsible for the business aspect of serving their clients - keeping with the requirements of real world application. Each group created a quote and invoice for their services, which they did not give to the businesses because all services provided were free of charge.

Manco says the project "has been a great real-world experience for the students."

He hopes to do more projects like this in the future, and is already looking for local businesses to participate in the 2013-14 school year

Complete caption: Dustin Adamson, James Boyd, Nathan O’Connor, Trevor Brewer and Levi Caley served as project managers for Dominic Manco’s fifth period digital design projects, which provided Pizza Junction Café with four options for a new menu. Four periods of digital design students completed a food styling and food photography project-based learning assignment.