Heat of the Kitchen helps underserved youth realize their amazing value through active, professional practice. By cooking, cleaning and serving together, we connect in ways that last long after the dishes are done.
It has been awhile. A lot has happened with events, garden work, graduation, even childbirth (congratulations Debbie and Chris!!!).
This isn’t the first time I’ve posted the skills and values our students identify at the beginning of each quarter, this set being from our most recent class. But it is a place of beginnings (most of us love fresh starts) and these again remind me of a few things.
First and foremost: students know what they need. Second, when I read these again, I am struck with how much these are skills and values that I want too, which is pretty heartwarming. It may not immediately create a common bond, but is a reminder that we are not that different from each other after all.
The hard part as the weeks progress (and it is only 8-9 weeks that we have together) is to sustain our values while keeping sight of our progress when challenges pop up.You’re having problems with friends or another teacher and aren’t in the mood to work, or you get distracted with others in class and miss some vitals in a recipe.
Any teen may not realize that this happens to all of us and in the workplace all the time. We all make mistakes and have off days. Sometimes what happens next are the best times in class, when we show our human-ness, responding to mistakes without getting personal or reactive (which are learned skills achieved only through practice). What could get charged up becomes an “oh” moment instead, not so bad, and the new understanding brings in a glimmer of trust. We start making connections as a kind of middle ground forms. Then people get a little braver, a little more trusting – and then a “wow” moment happens – what we made is delicious! Trust leads to accomplishment, leads to appreciation, leads to giving, leads to feeling great about giving, leads to creating even more. It is the magic of cooking together.
Happy February 2017 Everyone! This quarter our new batch of students are keeping us busy, inspiring us to work harder (and better). Lots of great teamwork and excitement is building as we head towards our next Long Table Dinner.
That’s right – Long Table Dinner8 will be on Thursday March 2nd, 2017, 6-8pm.
This is a working kitchen now. I stayed late on this afternoon to finish canning the last batch of grape jelly, made from donated grapes (NaStar Farms) and Barbera grape juice (Muir Made) – no pectin, so it is a softer texture – good for glazing sweet or savory items, or even as a bit of a drizzle on some cheese. There are more donations under the window – fresh quince which have such a welcoming fragrance – and soon will become another delicious preserve.
We’ve been incredibly lucky with the bounty coming into the classroom – thank you! And our students are tackling the large quantities with gusto as we gear up for our first Long Table Dinner in two years.
Here are a few shots of class over these past few weeks, a Jamaican themed menu from last week, and an Asian dumpling inspiration on another week:
What impresses me most right now is the very determined nature of our students. It is compelling – and it will definitely come in handy in the weeks ahead!
As we turn our menu discussions towards the Long Table Dinner, (LTD 7!) we hope you will set aside the evening of Thursday October 6th and join us for this fun event where we will turn our newly renovated main hallway into a pop-up dinner venue, for a delicious multi-course meal made and served by our students.
Menu details and a link to tickets to follow soon!
Wow. The end of May blew my mind. We knew we were moving. All of a sudden here we are, unpacking. In our newly tiled kitchen. With windows. Real working windows!
You know what? I cried a little.
Continuing around the room, there is one feature we are particularly proud of, something very important. Perhaps only some chefs drool at the idea of a new hood. It is that shiny silver thing on the ceiling, center back. This allows you to bring in the fire power of professional cooking. For us that happens to be a 6 burner gas range. (We like to keep things small yet powerful.) And where exactly is that firepower? It is waiting patiently outside the room while contractors figure out the easiest way to squeeze it in. We know it will happen.
So enough basking in this for a bit. What helped us get through this past year and a half while our culinary classroom was being created? Our students and their resilience first and foremost, and their willingness to try a hybrid version of our class, definitely. And there are many more people who helped keep us reaching week after week:
Dan Scherotter, he allowed us to use the OC Culinary space part time, which allowed us to actively work with our students again- so important!
BiRite Markets, what great staff! In their busy business, they seamlessly found ways to bring in a few of our students as produce interns at their Divisadero Street store. They are a stellar example of great teamwork in action.
NOPA Restaurant, so generous and gracious with our intern there! True support and best training ground for hospitality and life.
De Young Museum Cafe, Jason finding a way to give our students a chance. Thank you for creating another great workplace and for your involvement!
AOHTFS & CTE – Oh acronyms. These are our academy board and district department. School districts have to be steeped in accountability, but it is artful how in working with these two groups, we can feel that their supporting us in our work is their priority.
And most of all, the people I get to work with at Ida B. Wells, in particular: Debbie Guardado and Michael Martinez. One can’t keep doing the same thing over and over (isn’t that the definition of insanity?). Having a team who understands the heart behind the heat keeps that most important spark going.
Students always give the best advice on what to teach.
We got this advice at the beginning of this past quarter when we asked students:
What skills do you want to improve? What values are important to you?
Our take aways from this past quarter are more than just the pictures in this post may relate, but these speak so much to what we are practicing in our work simulation classes. You can’t think yourself into improving these skills and holding to these values, you have to practice them. And I wanted to acknowledge them and the hard work of our 3rd quarter students before heading into our 4th and last quarter of the school year. Thank you students! Before we know it, we will be packing up and moving back into our school site and a brand new kitchen! I’m glad that this advice will go with us.
It has been a long time! But we have some exciting news to share as we get deeper into fall and winter:
We are able to cook together again while at John O’Connell’s campus! This is a hybrid version of our regular class(3 days a week we travel down to the kitchen classroom), but being able to get active again is huge! We truly appreciate Chef Dan and the staff at John O’Connell who have helped make this happen. It is making a big difference to our students, to be able to actively cook together again. Pictures soon, just wanted to share our excitement now!
I’m not sure who painted this, but it is my favorite rendition of Ida B. Wells. Someone was smart enough to bring our Ida B. Wells posters and this painting here to John O’Connell High School, to decorate our hallways.
Here in week 3, we are still getting used to things. Two schools in one building must never be easy. We know it is all for a good reason, to be able to return to our newly renovated school building in a year, made safe and more useable. So with this move, each school wants to create a sense of community, and at the same time not lose each school’s unique character. And how is it turning out? So far the default has to serve the most amount of students consistently. Ours being a smaller amount of students, means we must defer to the larger flow. Ida B. Wells students seem to be developing a stronger sense of separation, isolation, segregation. Little things, like hearing the other school’s announcements (and what they have access to), to our problems with heat, broken shades, confusion in separate lunch times – these are all becoming bigger things.
We have been talking about characteristics and skills in our classes, as we build resumes. The most amazing characteristic I’ve seen in our students? Is that even with the frustrations in all this change, they have a resilience in them. Those that are coming to our classes still smile and/or say hello and are keeping our mutual respect. You have to look for these silver linings, focus harder on those, while you repair what is not right. That being said, the words on this painting were Ida B. Wells’ over a century ago. And they are still true today. There is still so much to fix. ~posted 1 1/2 hours into lockdown
I’ve spent the last few months preparing to move out of Ida B.Wells worrying about how to teach a culinary arts class without cooking. “Well, it’s not really a culinary arts class,” I’ve always told people. It is a work simulation class using culinary as a theme. Um, and that culinary part? It is a huge part for me, bigger than I first thought. It is what automatically connects us, automatically equalizes us, and with our combined efforts, feeds us on many levels.
I have been moping a little that I won’t have the thrill of the stove, the splash at the sink, or the pressure of the period ending bell to accomplish what we’ve been able to these last 5 years. That and attitudes have been wafting through the halls, perhaps we might be assimilated into the larger school site that will host us? After all, we are a small, alternative school floating quietly on a increasingly crowded sea of requirements. We don’t fit a mold for good reasons. But one can’t plan anything when your attitude focuses on impending doom. Instead of planning, you develop a planitude – an attitude that distracts you, like a dark fog.
Then a few weeks ago, I got to sit down with the project team to go over the renovation plans as respects my classroom, a basement area that has been Ida B. Wells’ cafeteria over the last 30 years (although every year I’ve been there I’ve inched into a bit more of it).
And as I sat there, with all these experts, seeing on the official black and white architect’s layout that they are building a real Culinary Arts classroom, with a full hood and ansul system, I started to get excited. All this trouble we are going through moving out is for good reason – our building is old and broken. And I have proof on these pages (which I’ve been carrying around with me like a security blanket) that we’ll be able to support students who need an alternative better than ever when we return in 2016. It really is happening.
Now to get back to teaching and taking care of the students moving with us, with all the value, respect and hospitality we can muster. There will still be bumps in the road, but it is heartening to see a glimpse into our future like this one.