Future pastry chef Sara Orr opens a large black bag and pulls out a 9-inch, serrated German-made bread knife.

"I love this knife," Orr says about the nearly $100 piece of fine cutlery.

The Messermeister and other knives, goodies and gadgets comprise nearly $1,000 of professional tools-of-the-trade Orr uses daily as a student at the California School of the Culinary Arts in Pasadena. The school is one of several Le Cordon Bleu campuses in the United States.

"I'd watch my mom cook," Orr says, "and I liked to cook. But I didn't know I wanted to go to culinary school until my senior year."

Orr had attended a private school until high school, when she enrolled in a choice school in Victorville. While others sang the school's praises, the program didn't work out for Orr, who didn't respond to the school's emphasis on home study.

"It wasn't for me."

So she decided to follow in her two brothers' footsteps and enroll at Options For Youth. Orr's oldest brother attended OFY after struggling at his public high school. But everything changed for the better for him.

"He got really ahead and went back to [public] high school for his senior year."

Her middle brother attended OFY and then went into the U.S. Air Force.

The personable, bright Orr admits that some people were perplexed at first.

"I go to Options," she'd say when asked where she attended high school.

"What did you do?" some would ask with concern, erroneously presuming the school was for troubled teens.

"People think it's delinquents, but it isn't that way at all," says Kendra Park, an Options For Youth teacher.

"We have such a variety of students with varied backgrounds," adds Bob Schroeder, who taught Orr at Options For Youth's Hesperia 1 campus at the Vons shopping center at Main Street and I Avenue.

For many average teens, Options For Youth can be just what they need. While a typical public high school with 2,000-plus students can be overwhelming, OFY has a much smaller student-to-teacher ratio. That results in students who can more easily concentrate on studies.

"They really need to feel comfortable and safe," Park says.

At culinary school, some students sit passively as their instructor discusses a cooking technique. Not Orr.

"I ask a lot of questions."

In fact, she already has completed 15 units of the 12-month program. And she's eager for more.

"It's a very fast-paced program."

And she's thriving on the competition, which sometimes occurs between the "culinary" students who are preparing to be head chefs and those in Orr's program, which is preparing the students for a career in pastry-making and other baking.

"We do kind of compete," she says. "They'll make dinner, and we'll make dessert."

Upon graduation, Orr will apply for an "externship." Then she hopes to move to Chicago or San Francisco for her first professional job, probably as an assistant bakery chef. Ultimately she wants to open her own establishment.

"I want to get experience, so I can open my own bakery."

That certainly doesn't surprise Parks.

"We do have these outstanding students who go on to do these kind of things."