South Walton zoology students served calamari

Nathan Cobb
Walton Sun

SANTA ROSA BEACH — A local zoology class took a unique spin at learning about mollusks.

On Thursday, as part of a cross-curricular learning style, zoology students at South Walton High School were served fried calamari prepared by EJ Lagasse, a senior and son of renowned chef Emeril Lagasse.

“It’s different,” said zoology teacher Mandy Rodriguez. “Students love different. I know a lot of them like structure, but they want new experiences, (and) they want to share those experiences.”

Rodriguez, who added that she looks for opportunities to highlight her students’ talents, said the idea stemmed from a conversation in her fourth-period class.

While covering mollusks, she brought up calamari, and told students how it has a kind of “rubbery” texture.

To which EJ had an explanation.

“He went into this whole spill about how it’s not fresh (if it’s rubbery) and described how he prepared it,” Rodriguez said. “It just triggered an idea with me.”

She then approached Lauri Herndl, South Walton High School’s culinary teacher, who was totally on board.

“It’s great for the kids because they need to hear that one subject works in another subject,” Herndl said. “What we find out in nature, we can cook in the kitchen.”

She added that EJ often acts as her assistant, which she said really helps students connect with the curriculum.

For him, it was just another chance to share his passion with his fellow students.

“It’s a unique experience for sure, (and) it’s a lot of fun for me,” Ej said. “It was the first thing that I thought of when I joined zoology.”

He believes that using fresh products is the most important thing a chef can do when preparing seafood, especially calamari.

“When you’re in a coastal area, one of the biggest things for the market is to sell and export seafood, and so a lot of people are trying frozen seafood because that’s what’s available for a lower price,” he said.

For senior Larry Schafer, who was among those trying the dish for the first time, it was a fun opportunity that students at other schools might not have. Schafer said he would definitely be on the lookout for calamari next time he visits a seafood restaurant.

“The seasoning kind of prepared my taste buds and then once I actually got to the squid ... it was delicious,” he added.