Thursday, April 2, 2009

Kitchen Confidential- Classroom Fun!

'My new briefcase given to me by hubby's sister for Christmas. I thought a Liz Claiborne bag was a bit extravagant (I do not like to carry purses), but I stuffed it with my teaching supplies *heavy*and off I go...'

Isle Youth Build is for Trenton inner city kids. I consider it a second chance high school for their diplomas, certifications, and life skills. Through partnerships these kids attend both academic and vocational classes. They also rehabilitate at least one abandoned home in Trenton each year. These kids are there because they want to make a difference in their life and surroundings.

The Life Skills Coach (LSC) found me through my Open Mic group. I believe in bringing culture into someones life through performance art. Once the Life Skills Coach found out that I taught cooking classes we discussed a partnership. Weekly classes are scheduled, and the first class took place this past Tuesday evening.

Kristina, their LSC, told me that most of the students grumbled at the thought of someone coming in and lecturing about the subject of cooking (I thought, but how can that be boring); then after it was all over she told me she heard nothing but positive remarks. They loved my hands on approach, disciplined structure, and liked the fact they were working for their dinner!

'I kept an eye on the finger positioning part of their knife lesson the whole time (practice, practice, practice), and we counted fingers before leaving to just make sure...'

I spent about thirty minutes going over basics such as-

  • Safety- Holding the knife down towards the floor while moving around the room, non-slip shoes, and HCAAP requirements for most employers.
  • Sanitation- Hand washing (how long, and proper technique), cutting boards, etc...
  • Personal Hygiene- Dress, hair nets, coming to work around food sick, etc...
  • Procurement- I will purchase the ingredients, but they have to check them off the list and learn to make a budget.
  • Station Set-up- Wet towels under cutting board to prevent slipping, gloves, bowls, mise...
  • Georges Auguste Escoffier's Kitchen Order & Mise en place- as we set up three stations- We will go over more on his 'brigade de cuisine' next week.
  • Equipment & Tools- They have some large equipment, but we will do a kitchen tour.
  • Knife Skills- Knife cuts using various ingredients for our menu that related to the fact they had to work for their supper this night!
  • Nutrition- A small amount on the menu (protein, vitamins, etc) they were preparing, so more focus next week.
  • Set-up/Clean-up- Each person is responsible for helping set-up and clean-up their stations every class.
I found each student was a willing participant, they witnessed each actual step by step action, and then set up their own stations in three separate groups...

'I had to ask the classes normal instructor to give back the knife to the actual student...guess they were having just as much fun learning as the kids were!'

'What was really funny was they loved learning the knife skills, and the various cutting terms like chiffonade (ribbon cuts) and julienne (small/thin slices), and that the pieces got smaller and smaller in order to keep going, and going, and...they just did not want to stop!'

We had three stations set-up in the lunch room until they move into their new building...

* Fruit Salad
* Garden Salad
* Grill Station

Believe it or not some people have not done simple preparation of things such as salads and other cuisine outside of their own personal family's meals. Only two out of the twelve students has ever worked in food industry related jobs. I plan to introduce as many cultures into their lives in the next twelve weeks, and then start all over with the next group.

'Of course this Texas girl taught them how to flip quesadillas like a real short order (Tex-mex) cook; that was part of their 'protein' lesson in the nutrition discussion...and I have to sneak some of my favorite foods in their somewhere...'

'Here is a shout out to all of Chef E's peeps out there in the blog sphere, and her hood...'

We will be taking kitchen tours, ethnic market tours, farmer's market tours, and have guest speakers and chef's come in and work with them. I am having a bake sale in late April to raise money to buy them some culinary books, and other supplies we need for our classes...

Inner city kids that are this enthused are well worth my time!

EXTRA! EXTRA! Read all about it: I am taking donations from New Jersey blogs, friends, libraries, and others for books to start up a cooking library. I would like nutrition, global cuisine, Betty Crocker, Helpful Kitchen Hints, and really- any cookbooks you might want to donate. Any condition or type is welcome. We also will be having a bake sale to raise money for more aprons, and kitchen supplies for these guys on April 18th, in Plainsboro, NJ at a local market. If you would like to volunteer in any way just shoot me an email...Thanks!