If you’re a cooking teacher (or aspiring to be one), you’ll likely be developing a culinary nutrition curriculum that’s a custom fit for your students.
Here’s how Young Chefs develops the curriculum for our current classes. Each nine-week session is unique:
At the first meeting, the young people decide on the cooking club’s ground rules. Be nice, or leave! is the most important one, closely followed by rules to stay safe with sharp knives and heat sources, and others, such as food safety principles. Each program decided on a name for their team: Team Master Chef, Team Silver Spoon, Team Cuisine, Team Pasta, and Team Fried Chicken.
What are we cooking today?
Just like many family cooks, the youths browse cookbooks for inspiration. They write their suggestions on sticky notes and categorize them according to the five food group posters on the wall.
At the the second meeting, young people vote on the recipes they most want to prepare on a Food Preferences Survey–a compilation of all the suggestions from the five groups. These preferences help the teams to create menus during the third meeting. The adult chefs guide the youths to choose dishes that are nutritionally balanced, with harmonious flavors, colors and textures. The following meetings produce one menu (main course, side dish and dessert) from each program.
The cooking meeting routine
Members arrive at 3:00 pm, after eating an after-school supper. They arrange the mis en place for each of the three recipes, while the three Assistant Student Chefs review their recipes with Chef. Youths come together in a standing circle to open the meeting with a warm welcome and brief check-in discussion. Then they break into recipe groups, to continue standing Circle Time around their recipe tables. They take turns reading the recipe aloud. Then the Assistant Student Chef assigns tasks, and they get to work. Or is it play?
After all the ingredients are prepared, and the dishes are cooking, everyone participates in cleaning up and getting ready for the Family Meal. The tables are cleaned and set. Helpers are assigned to serve everyone snack-sized portions. Some youths like to take photos with their smart phones to show their families what they made–and that is the only exception to the “no electronics” rule.
During the family meal, each recipe group takes a turn describing to the others how they prepared their dish, including new cooking methods and vocabulary, challenges that the group addressed, and suggestions for ways to improve the recipe. The young people enjoy the social aspects of dining together that some say they do not experience at home.
As the team readies to go home on the activity bus, Chef asks, “Who had fun today? Who tried a unfamiliar cooking technique? Who tasted something new and different? Who is going to cook some of these recipes at home?” The hands raise and the cheers of agreement reinforce the young people’s satisfaction with a tasty menu, teamwork well done and the opportunity to make new friends while cooking together.