Chefs in the making
Cooking schools help teens build culinary skills and confidence.
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"It is together – the food and the moment – that makes eating special," Stepkin says. "For me, my special dining experience was when I had my first mandoo. The dumplings and this young woman's story became for me a very special memory-making moment."Skip to next paragraph
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When she mentioned this to the students, they shared examples of their own memory-making moments. This new understanding brought a complete turnabout in their attitude. They wanted to learn to dice, sauté, and deep-fry correctly. And they carefully listened to what Stepkin said, because she had charmed them with her knowledge and story.
Teaching the students recipes and cooking tips was easy after that, because she had engaged them on their level.
Joe Randall, of Chef Joe Randall's Cooking School, believes that fully engaging students is necessary for classroom success.
His summer 2008 culinary day camp for African-American teenagers, which began as an experiment, attracted nearly 100 young men.
"No doubt some of the teenagers were brought to the camp because of their parents. But many more came because of their own interest in learning about food. My responsibility was to build on this interest in an engaging way," he says.
At the Julian Krinsky Camp and Programs, the cooking program for teenagers is a little different because it's aimed at introducing and connecting teens to the food industry in general.
Since the program runs three weeks, students have enough time to experience a broad range of activities. Among them are trips to markets, where they are taught to shop smartly and read labels for content; conversations with respected local restaurateurs and chefs, whom they are encouraged to question about the business; and hands-on cooking classes from a professional staff who teaches them to create delicious and nutritious meals from scratch.
When the three-week saturation program is completed, the teens prepare all the food for a gala banquet for the whole camp to enjoy.
The staff's mission is to offer students a new appreciation of food and the background to achieve what Simon Solis-Cohen achieved after taking the cooking program: an opportunity to work in the industry. In Simon's case, it was a part-time job at the prestigious Osteria restaurant in Philadelphia.
Mrs. Jeneen Masih, whose 13-year-old daughter, Beatrice, took a culinary program at the Snowvillage Inn, sums up the results of her teenager's experience: "Beatrice's training at Snowvillage reinforced skills that she already had, which added to her confidence, while at the same time pushing her to grow in an amazing atmosphere under the guidance of a world-class chef."
While there, Beatrice worked side by side with executive chef Matthew Mitchell, prepping some of her favorite foods for the evening meal. The experience was a joy because the teenager was able to polish the cooking skills she had learned at home in a professional and enjoyable setting.
For her, it will always be a special memory-making moment.