Kids can cook! | TheUnion.com

Kids can cook!

Sierra Harvest’s tasting days teaches nearly 4,000 local students culinary skills

Valerie Costa
A group of SAEL seniors make summer rolls during Tasting Days. Photo by Valerie Costa

Kids throughout western Nevada County are getting the opportunity this month to learn how to cook delicious dishes using fresh, local ingredients as part of Sierra Harvest’s annual Tasting Days.  The event is one of the highlights of the nonprofit’s Farm to School Program, and this year will reach nearly 4,000 K-12 students at 27 elementary, middle, and high schools.

Throughout the month of October, 25 volunteer chefs are teaching cooking lessons utilizing local, fresh, seasonal and organic produce to inspire and excite the students to eat healthy and fresh food.  Each chef purchases the ingredients for the recipes from local farms in order support local farmers and show how diverse the availability is of produce is in our region.  Nevada City School of the Arts took it one step further and had one class visit Mountain Bounty Farm to pick kale, and then turn that into a massaged kale salad with their guest chef the following day for a true farm to fork experience.

“The goal of tasting week is to have it not be a lesson of showing, but hands on involvement,” said Miriam Limov, Sierra Harvest Engagement Manager.  “If kids cook their own food they are more apt to try it.  I want them to bring the recipes back to their families and prepare meals together from fresh ingredients.”

Each lesson is geared toward the grade it is presented to, so younger students received instruction on basics such as cutting fruits and vegetables and mixing ingredients, while older students were taught more advanced culinary concepts like the proper way to chop herbs and how and why to reduce liquids when cooking.

Roberta DesBouillons was one of the guest chefs for Tasting Days, and used her experience to teach some of the other chefs the best way to teach kids at their own level.  DesBouillons is a Culinary Institute of America, Hyde Park, trained chef.  She had her own children’s cooking school in San Francisco for 10 years called “Apron Strings” before relocating to Grass Valley and becoming a Resident Chef at Tess’ Kitchen Store for several years.  Roberta has a unique teaching style that stresses fun in the kitchen as well as the underlying fundamentals to make you a great cook, and knows how to teach kids at any age.

Roberta DesBouillons instructs students at SAEL on how to make summer rolls. Photo by Valerie Costa.

At SAEL, DesBouillons spent the morning teaching senior students how to make summer rolls, and stressed the importance of knowing how to cook as well as making it something fun rather than a chore.  “Cooking is a life skill.  You’re going to eat three times a day and soon you’ll be leaving your parents’ homes for the next step in life.  You can either hit the drive thru three times a day or learn how to make your own meals,” she said.  “Cooking can be fun.  You use all of your senses and get to play again.  Your hands are the best tools you have.  Keep them clean and use them all the time.”

Students then had the opportunity to make their own summer rolls, which DesBouillons demonstrated for them beforehand.  As they worked together to soak the rice paper, fill the rounds with shredded vegetables, and roll them, the students laughed and joked, but all took the lesson seriously.  They then got to try the fruits of their labor, to mixed reactions.

One student thought the mixture had too much cilantro.  Another student thought it tasted better without the sauce.  One remarked that the rice paper felt like jellyfish skin as he soaked it to a malleable consistency.  But for some, the dish was a brand new experience that could unlock a lifelong love of the culinary arts.  “This is delicious,” said student Rafael Gomez.  “I’ve never had this before and it was great!”

To learn more about Sierra Harvest and the many great community programs they provide year-round, visit sierraharvest.org.


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