We caught up with some young chefs in a cooking class at the Rutgers Housing Development last week. They were making a vegetarian meal that included a cold melon soup, potato salad, and sauteed string beans with caramelized onions. Along the way they were introduced to all kinds of fresh herbs. They were learning to describe the food as savory, sweet, spicy or sour, in order to determine what they liked or didn’t like about it.
The class is part of a pilot program for 9 and 10-year olds, sponsored by cooking star Rachel Ray’s non-profit organization, Yum-o!, in collaboration with The Sylvia Center, Children’s Aid and the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City. The goal of the program is to inspire young people to discover good nutrition through direct experiences with fresh food in hopes that they can begin to make healthier choices in their own homes.
Chef Instructor Hollie Greene from the Sylvia Center set up the chefs with their own cutting boards and taught them some professional (and safe) chopping techniques. She encouraged all of them to taste everything along the way as they eagerly participated in the preparations. Greene said getting them to be open enough to try new things was a big first step.
After the potatoes were chopped and tossed, string beans were trimmed and onions were caramelized, the group set the table and sat down to enjoy the meal they had created together. The final verdict? “It’s good!”
The Sylvia Center is a non-profit garden-to-table program that encourages young people to discover good nutrition through thoughtful, direct experiences with seasonal fruits and vegetables, on the farm and in the kitchen. The organizers of the classes at Rutgers are hoping the success of this program will lead to its reproduction at other housing developments.