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Food Network star films show at E. Hampton HS

Students in Denise Klein's Life Skills class at

Students in Denise Klein's Life Skills class at East Hampton High School wear aprons made for them by Food Network star Ina Garten. (Nov. 16, 2011) Credit: Erin Geismar

At East Hampton High School, the baked goods sold during lunch every Thursday come directly from the cookbooks of The Food Network’s Ina Garten.

And while the bake sale was always popular, a recent visit from the chef herself had the halls abuzz and the students who made the goods feeling pretty popular themselves.

“Like, 'run back to the classroom and lock the doors' popular,” said teacher Denise Klein, whose students do the baking and said people sometimes come knocking on her classroom door when the sweets sell out.

Klein teaches the life skills class, where six special needs students make and sell the baked goods every week.

Klein’s class follows an academic schedule before lunch every day and focuses on job and life skills in the afternoons. When not attending internships in the community — including jobs at local supermarkets and the library — the students focus on things like food shopping and cooking.

On Nov. 3, Garten, star of The Food Network’s “The Barefoot Contessa,” which films at Garten’s house in East Hampton, shot an upcoming episode of the show, to be called “Today at School,” in Klein’s classroom. Garten brought the students customized aprons and helped the students bake her blueberry muffins, icing for banana cake and brownies.

Garten also donated three KitchenAid mixers.

Though the rest of the school might have been a little starstruck, not so for the students in the life skills class, who have a history with Garten.

Klein said it all started with her red velvet cupcakes, which was the first Barefoot Contessa recipe the students tried last year.

“We thought we couldn’t do it like she does,” she said. “But they were outrageous.”

Klein said she knew they were on to something. From that point on, baking became a regular activity for the class, in which they stick almost entirely to recipes from Garten’s cookbook.

With the money the students earn from the bake sale, they plan a field trip each year. Last year, they went to see the Bodies exhibit in New York City. They took a group photo, and Klein sent it to Garten, explaining how her cupcakes helped them get there. Garten invited the whole class to visit her kitchen in June.

It was Garten who reached out to Klein afterward and asked if she could come to the classroom, film crew in tow.

The class has its suspicions about how that came to happen.

Chavanne Allen, 19, of East Hampton, one of Klein’s students, said he was walking on Main Street in East Hampton over the summer when he passed Garten on the street.

“She said, ‘Hi Chavanne,’ and I said, ‘Wow, she remembers my name,’” he said.

“We think that’s what did it,” Klein said. “She was very sweet with the kids.”

The students said they felt confident cooking with Garten, and already knew how to do most of the baking techniques she showed them.

“She was so sweet that we had more fun than we were nervous,” said LeMy Hoang, 19, of East Hampton, who said the recipes were “not that hard” to follow.

So while the experience didn’t necessarily make them better chefs, Hoang said, it did accomplish an equally important feat.

“It made us more popular chefs,” she said.

Klein said “Today at School” is set to air on The Food Network on March 24.

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