The American Culinary Federation, ACF, understood the statistic of how many children in the United States suffer from malnutrition due to dietary imbalances. Local master chef, Donald McMillian, initiated a North Carolina Chapter of the Chef and Child program. The vision to promote and foster awareness of proper nutrition allows the Chef and Child Foundation to team up with various organizations and help preschool and elementary children celebrate health and good food. During the summer months, the Chef and Child program offers a five-day kitchen readiness curriculum for children ages eight to twelve in Forsyth County and 22 other counties.
Local chefs teaming up with groups of children sounds like the perfect partnership to ease the feeling of intimidation in using knives, small appliances, the range, and oven.
With kitchen safety a priority, master chefs engage groups to view the kitchen as a place of possibilities and creations. Children learn how to combine foods to create new flavors. In the opportunity to gain exposure by playing with food, children discover the purpose of whole grains, the benefits of fruits and vegetables, drinking smarter by limiting sugar intake, and the value of proteins.
Chef Alan Romano, a culinary instructor at Guilford Technical Community College, GTCC, immediately responds when asked about his years with the Chef and Child program. He shares, “I enjoy showing kids a better way to eat. They have a real substitute to eating fast food or choosing junk food. We play with combinations and flavors, and the kids have a great time decorating a plate. You can see the pride on their faces when food preparation becomes fun.”
Twenty years ago, a former student from the Chef and Child program chose professional culinary arts training through GTCC. Chef Romano delights in telling the story of a child who caught the spark and wanted to do more than cook in her family’s kitchen. Now, she is a chef in the business. Romano says, “I love giving back to the community and helping guide kids in the right direction in making good food choices and knowing how to eat healthily. It’s a great program, and I love being part of it.”
Across five days, children learn the four steps to food safety, which include clean hands before, during, and after food preparation. By the end of the first day, children understand how to make a healthy snack, the steps in preparing and baking a pizza and combining ingredients to serve a pineapple smoothie. By day three, pride gushes in the form of broad smiles in serving a homemade cheese lasagna, tossed green salad, a ranch dressing from scratch, French garlic bread, and a light iced tea. Concluding the week, students can make desserts and beverages, side meals, and main meals to well satisfy their family, no matter how big or small it is.
Appreciation of the Program
4-H Youth Development Agent, Dorothy Pearce-Brady writes, “Parents routinely applaud the guardians, who give the aspiring chefs and bakers the confidence to continue and pursue their dreams. Parents feel the program helps their sons and daughters overcome their fears and ask to cook for the family.”
The ACFEF Chef and Child program offers more than just a week-long class. The website, www.acfchefs.org/ACF/Partnerships/Chef_and_Child/Programs, provides families with a wealth of information in a kid-friendly flyer from articles, including “Our Ingredient of the Month” section, to recipes and activities.
After 25 years, the Chef and Child program anticipates the year to come!
To learn more about the program, go to N.C. State Cooperative Extension website, www.ces.ncsu.edu, find your county and click on “4-H Summer Adventures.” Placement in the class fills quickly; therefore, register early!