Chefs Move to Schools at Juana Briones

Chef’s Move to Schools partners with Juana Briones Elementary 

Chefs Move to Schools, an initiative of First Lady Michelle Obama, partnered with Juana Briones Elementary in Palo Alto, CA on their first event May 17, 2012.

Chef Laura Stec of Portola Valley, CA (author of Cool Cuisine – Taking the Bite Out of Global Warming) taught a Farm to Fork cooking class. Twenty-three hungry 4th graders experienced an hour-long submersion into the world of seasonal eating and cooking.

To get the class started, chef Laura passed out a questionnaire. Here is a sample of favorite responses:

Q: What is your favorite vegetable?

Top answers: Corn, carrot and broccoli

Surprising answers: Beets, onions, spinach

Q: What is your least favorite vegetable and why? 

A: “Asparagus – it has a disgusting bitter taste, and it is usually mushy.”

Surprising answer: “I don’t have one – I like all vegetables.”

Q: What is your favorite way to cook vegetables?

Top answer: “I don’t know.”

Surprising answer: “I like to chew and chew and chew.”

After reviewing answers, the class passed around a bag of homemade compost from chef Laura’s garden and played the “Guess how many bugs (microorganisms) live in these two cups of soil?” game.  Students were given a clue: “The number is in the billions” and had to do the math conversation of cups into tablespoons.  Everyone was surprised to learn the answer was 64 billion. (Note: two billion microorganisms are reported to be in one tablespoon of healthy soil – Cool Cuisine 2008 page 16).

Next, the students broke into groups and guessed which of the produce assembled on a table in front of them was “in season” (growing locally right now), and which was not. We discussed why berries and peas grow in the spring, while most stone fruit (EX: plums and peaches) and vegetables such as winter squash grow in the late summer and fall.

Students then picked up a plate of seasonal English Peas and berries. They did a berry comparison, discussing the difference between the taste of strawberries and blueberries. After shucking their peas (and popping a few in their mouth) they collected the rest for use by chef Laura who demoed proper stir-frying technique.

Rebecca Scholl, parent organizer for Bay Area Tasting Week and Chefs Move to Schools liaison was on hand for the demonstration.

“When the children expressed surprise at how sweet the peas tasted,” said Scholl, “Laura reminded them that caramelization happens at 330°F while water boils at 212°F – so if a vegetable does not taste good when it is boiled perhaps we should try sautéing instead, a technique which brings out the “secrets” or sweetness in vegetables. The kids were overwhelming positive and they asked Laura if she could come back every day!”

The class closed with a Seasonal Smoothie recipe of blended berries, orange juice, banana and yoghurt, plus a reminder to all the students that one of the most positive effects they can have on the environment begins on their dinner plates.

So let’s change the world with great tasting food! Together we can make a great meal and a great difference.


For more information: Chefs Move to Schools: Chefs across the country are answering Mrs. Obama’s call to get involved with their local schools as part of the Chefs Move to Schools initiative, run through the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The First Lady is calling on chefs to get involved by adopting a school and working with teachers, parents, school nutritionists and administrators to help educate children and show that nutrition can be fun.

Bay Area Tasting Week:

Chef Laura Stec:

Photos by Jian Ma of Palo Alto, CA

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