How many ways can you cook shrimp?

Last week, students at Tongue Point Job Corps Center took out sauté pans, cutting boards, sharp chef's knives and their appetites, trying to get to the bottom of that question.

One of them, 21-year-old Ashley Morrow, sautéed big, two-inch long prawns in olive oil, garlic and a sprinkle of salt and pepper, just until the outside turned pink. She put the curled-up crustacean on top of a tangle of pasta and finished it with a few flecks of chopped parsley. The shrimp was tender and juicy - perfectly cooked.

Instructor Darryl McKnight looked on as the rest of the class practiced what they'd learned that day.

"It's important to learn how not to overcook shrimp, and how to cook them with different flavors," he said.

On this day, the first ever galley cook class at Tongue Point was experimenting at dredging the shrimp in store-bought blackening seasoning, and then comparing the flavors when they mixed the spices and herbs together themselves. One of the most important things McKnight said they'll learn is how to cook basic proteins - especially fish - and make them into hundreds of different meal combinations.

Students at the Job Corps Center can now add a galley cook certification to basic seamanship training, and culinary students can learn how to take their kitchen skills out to sea. It's the only program of its kind in all of Job Corps, said Center Director Kim Shillinger.

"Having cooking training is very helpful, especially if that job isn't full-time on board a ship. We decided, let's get more kids in the program and it will open up even more jobs for them," Shillinger said.

Tongue Point has been slowing increasing the number of students it admits over the last few months, largely because of the popularity of the program, said Tita Montero, business and community liaison at Tongue Point. Enrollment has increased about 25 students to 525, and nine full-time jobs have been added as a result, Montero said.

"In this economic climate, we think it's a boon to the economy," Shillinger said.

McKnight was one of the new hires, and he now teaches students about how to cook for working crews onboard any type of sea-going vessel. It's a job McKnight did for 15 years in the U.S. Coast Guard, reaching the rank of Senior Chief when he retired from service.

Although teaching isn't new to Mc-Knight, he's not used to doing it full-time.

"I've taught smaller classes before in the Coast Guard, but that was teaching cooks on a ship," McKnight said. At Tongue Point, students learn in a roomy commercial kitchen dubbed the "Underway Cafe," and apply what they've learned on weekly trips on board one of Job Corps' vessels stationed at Tongue Point.

The program lasts 10 weeks, McKnight said, and covers kitchen basics from maintaining galley equipment to multiplying recipes for big batches. But the lion's share of the time is spent covering the specific skills galley cooks need to prepare four meals a day for hungry working crews - regardless of weather or how little food might be left in the pantry.

Stormy conditions can pose particular obstacles to a galley cook that a bricks-and-mortar chef might not be familiar with, said Patrick Albers, captain in charge of the Seamanship Program at Tongue Point.

"It's a lot different than cooking in a restaurant. The food is chasing you rather than you chasing it," Albers said.

Student Cori Wahlberg described how treacherous cooking in rough seas can be.

"You've got pots of boiling water, rocking back and forth. You've got to watch what you're doing. If the deep fryer spills, it's 350 degrees. It's definitely dangerous," Wahlberg, 21, said.

McKnight said 15 students will take the class each term, including summers. He said he was happy to move to Astoria from Alameda, Calif., to take the position.

"It's a fantastic program. The students know there's a niche that needs to be filled," McKnight said.