Nick Mannisto was on a cooking campout in 2008 with his scout troop when he entered a competition to see who could create the best meal.
He had the choice to make anything available, and eventually cooked up a roasted chicken in a Dutch oven over a fire. He won the competition.
Little did Mannisto know that the chicken cuisine he created would pave the way for his passion of culinary arts.
Mannisto, now a senior at Howell High School, is fully committed to a dream of owning his own restaurant, which he has already named “Rosemary” as it is his favorite herb, and he plans to have a garden growing on the roof of the building.
“I like the feeling of looking at a dish and saying, ‘I made that,’” Mannisto says. “The foods I have made over my high school years have molded the way I cook in the kitchen.”
While those at school may recognize him as an integral part of the Highlander Restaurant, little do some know about his other accomplishments.
Mannisto, who lives with his mom, Debbie, dad, Mark, and brother, Luke, grew up as a scout, where he learned the values of life such as working hard, helping others, and contributing in a positive way in the community.
“Scouts helped mold me into the person I am today and in my future,” Mannisto says. “With the leadership skills I’ve gained through scouts, I feel like I can do anything if I set my mind to it.”
Although he discovered his passion with his troop, Mannisto’s crowning achievement came in July of 2011 when he was honored with the title of an Eagle Scout.
To become an Eagle Scout, Mannisto had to earn approximately 25 merit badges ranging from CPR to swimming to money management. In addition, Mannisto worked to complete an intense community service project in which he spent 180 hours organizing and building a memorial garden at his church, Heart of the Shepherd in Howell.
“Completing this project made me feel as if I could conquer bigger and better things in the future,” he says.
The restaurant he plans to own is one of those bigger and better things in Mannisto’s bright future.
After he graduates this year, Mannisto, who is an avid guitar player, will begin classes at Schoolcraft College in Livonia. There, he plans on taking courses in Schoolcraft’s prestigious culinary arts program.
“I feel like attending Schoolcraft will bring my game to the next level,” he says confidently.
Not that it’s all ready at a high level. Mannisto serves as the assistant manager at the Highlander Restaurant and already has experience in the kitchen at places such as Pure and Simple Catering and the Moose Grille at Moose Ridge Golf Course.
Mannisto also took some time off from the kitchen to compete in this year’s Senior Survivor competition. Mannisto, who represented Team Orange, says that he looked forward to the challenge of the competition and was excited to fundraise for a good cause, the Arc of Livingston.
While he took the competition incredibly seriously, his charitable background proves that Mannisto is willing to do anything to help out the greater good.
Whether you find him in the kitchen or out in the community, you can bet on one thing: A restaurant called “Rosemary” will be treated to rave reviews, and it won’t be a coincidence that Mannisto is at the helm.
Sometimes when a college graduate is lucky enough, they are able to pursue a career once the end of school propels them into the real world. But in Michigan, it is especially hard to find a job, let alone one that fits an aspiring young woman’s personality. Fortunately, Ms. Amanda Czarnik happened to be in the right place at the right time when a teaching position opened up at Howell High School. It was just this year that Ms. Czarnik became a HHS staff member, teaching Culinary Exploration 1 and 2, along with Child Development.
“I just saw a job posting and applied for it,” says Ms. Czarnik. “It was just meant to be.”
From the very beginning of high school, Ms. Czarnik prepared for her dreams of becoming a teacher. After realizing her initial idea of educating small children was not exactly her forte, she met a teacher through the Latchkey Program at her high school who introduced her and “helped her get in” to Madonna University. The guidance from Ms. Czarnik’s teacher went beyond aiding a college recommendation statement, however; she empowered a caterpillar to transform into a butterfly.
“I always knew I wanted to be a teacher,” she recalls. “I knew I wanted to be like her [teacher].”
Ms. Czarnik continued her plans of attending Madonna University, with majoring in Family and Consumer Sciences for Secondary Education. She began student teaching at the Utica School District in Sterling Heights for a while, and soon taught full-time for a middle school in Battle Creek during the second half of the school year. Of course, this is Ms. Czarnik’s first full year as a teacher, and she is happy to have spent it at HHS.
“Foods [Culinary Exploration] is my favorite class to teach,” she says. “And students are a lot nicer here.”
Besides concocting new cuisine dishes, Ms. Czarnik has taken the role of head coach for HHS’s girls freshman cheerleading team. Though she doesn’t have any experience other than coaching competitive cheer, the demand for being a cheerleading coach came while she contributed to Sterling Heights’ cheer program as a student teacher. It was there that her students kept saying, “We want you to be our coach!”
“I was a wannabe cheerleader, I’ll admit it,” she laughs. “But I’m not very coordinated at all.”
Ms. Czarnik refuses to let her lack of coordination hold her back, though. Along with coaching cheer, she involves herself in the sports of golf and disc golf, which many people find surprising. Her activities outside the classroom also include going to the beach whenever the weather is nice, playing live trivia games with Ms. Katie Green, a fellow HHS teacher, and watching reruns of Friends and Saved by the Bell.
The humor from Ms. Czarnik’s favorite T.V. sitcoms is translated into the everyday life of her classroom. With Culinary Exploration 1 & 2 and Child Development being semester elective classes, she is able to experience all different kinds of students, grades 9-12. The students are also able to achieve many skills from her classes: learning new foods, working in groups, and unfolding new cultures are only some of the benefits they gain from taking these courses.
“I have really good classes,” she says. “My students are really funny [and] they make me laugh! I love cooking with my students.”
Room G-3 isn’t merely a classroom, but one full of life-changing experiences: a passionate teacher, educational expertise, and an entertaining environment. So maybe it wasn’t just luck that allowed Ms. Czarnik her dream job after all – it was simply sugar, spice, and everything nice…and the occasional chant, “Let’s go, Highlanders!”