Garden Magic

This is a super cool project that is suddenly happening:

  • Take one fabulously sustainable & deliciously friendly restaurant (NOPA) with many caring employees;
  • Add in a nearby high school in need of care and community (Ida B. Wells);
  • Sprinkle with super-kind restaurant owners and garden loving administration;
  • And dig and plant and water.

This is so new, many of our students aren’t aware of it, or the amazing potential for all of us to grow and connect.  We are looking forward to getting more involved in the weeks ahead.  NOPA, we may be speechless in our appreciation at the moment, but get ready for some fun with us in the future!  Thank you so much for your efforts!

Thanksgiving Bliss


Thanksgiving Bliss = preparing and serving a Thanksgiving meal to 200 of our closest classmates and teachers, most of whom I have a feeling skipped breakfast.  But it was a special moment to watch our Culinary Arts students roll with the last minute changes and crowds of people wondering what was going to happen next. Lately I’ve been noticing this “what will happen next state” as not only the justifiable state of mind of a teenager, but also the state of mind for most of us in today’s world.  Adaptability is now more important an attribute to have under one’s belt than ever before.  Our Culinary Arts students showed how well they can adapt, and with eagerness.

Some quotes from them as they were serving:

“I want to do this for real”

“I love the smiles from people when you give them something good to eat.”

All that and more. There was a great write up in the San Francisco Chronicle about our program – THANK YOU EVERYONE who helped make that happen!  As a result, we are now getting an increased interest in our job shadowing/ internship program from restaurants, hotels and caterers, which is very exciting.  Now if only we can adapt as quickly as our students!

 

Quick End of Year Review





It went by too quickly, but here are some shots of our November & December 2010.  The students were amazing!

dark caramel flan
chicken mole, enchiladas, nopales
kuri squash, cauliflower & green bean curry over rice, tomato chutney, naan with zaatar
Visiting with NOPA’s Pastry Chef, Amy Brown
time for intersession…
intersession = 31 hungry & eager students.
intersession = delicious: chicken sausage meatloaf, salad, leek & potato soup, banana pudding with home-made vanilla wafers

  

gingerbread house extravaganza


 

The Harvest May 2010

A corner of our school garden
 thanks to the creative efforts of Urban Sprouts!

It is the last week of classes and our garden at school has been bursting into bloom: poppies, artichokes, cauliflower, chard, parsley, nasturtium.  Just in time for the bees in our new beehive to feel welcome.

We picked some of the chard on a rainy Monday, a few edible blossoms, the mint and a few herbs, trying not to strip the plants on one hand or harvest too little to allow everyone to taste on the other.

We headed inside and made some fresh mint tea, delicious!  And started another harvest, talking about what worked this year in our Culinary Arts class, and what didn’t work (of course while keeping our hands busy making a filling for empanadas with our harvest).  Here are some of the responses:

Curriculum Keeper #1: That meal we cooked last week:

Chicken Piccatta
Mashed Potatoes
Chard and Chard Stem Sauteed with Garlic

They liked it for its ease and deliciousness (“We could make this at home”).  I was stopped for a quick review on the spot, a double-check on how to cook chard this way.

Curriculum Keeper #2: All the pastas, and our housemade chicken sausage that went into the tomato sauce. Extrusion and mortar & pestles are cool. They have been cool for a very, very long time.

Curriculum Keeper #3: Pastel Tres Leches – and this was from those new to this classic but was also chorused by those who already knew this dessert.  After our weeks of making desserts for events, I was surprised they chose this easy, refreshingly sweet cake.

Some suggestions:

  • More on food values
  • More food we can make at home
  • Teach us more on how to be waiters

And when we got into the don’ts, it was hard to pin down a specific item not to make again. A few students mentioned a recipe that they may not have liked personally, only to find the person next to them loved it. It was great to be able see all the smiles through this – now that we were all speaking with some authority, it remained an enjoyable discussion.

The next day I received a thank you note from one of my students:

Dear Ms. Chef Cravens:
I thank you for your kind help in cooking class.  I have discovered that one does not have to be born with a skill to make delicious food.  It comes from the love you put in the food – and I built friendship with people I thought I’d never talk to.

Perhaps I’ve received the best harvest of all this year. Have a great summer everyone!

Thank you Elizabeth Prueitt

Dear Elizabeth Prueitt:
You don’t know me, but I’ve stood in line and enjoyed your pastries at your bakery, Tartine, on 18th & Guerrero enough times to be eager to buy your cookbook.  Now I teach high school students in San Francisco. I told them about your delicious desserts and showed them this book. Both of my classes wanted to make your lemon meringue cake and here is what we found out:
  • Chiffon cake is really fun to make, particularly beating the egg whites separately with a little sugar so that they “poof up into a cloud.”  More than one student wanted to dive into that bowl, it looked so much like a cozy blanket.
  • That caramel layer?  Man, I don’t know what we did, our caramel ended up hard and chewy – and yummy.  We warmed it in a double boiler the next day to soften it, and even though we weren’t completely in on the idea of caramel and lemon, that caramel layer? IT MADE THE CAKE.
  • I’ve never seen so many students smile here as we blow-torched the outer meringue.

Thank you, Elizabeth, for your contributions to the world of desserts and for making your recipes accessible.  I know a few students of mine will now be looking for your shop and will tell their friends when they see your lemon meringue cake, “I made that,” and their voices will be full of pride.
All My Best,
Chef Cravens

It’s A Hood!

This may not be the most appealing picture to most of you, but it is definitely appealing to us!  My students have been patiently upbeat about the way we have been cooking in here, using a rice steamer to boil water and a convection oven to heat pans hot enough to simulate sauteeing.  But we all know that those aren’t ways to cook regularly.  Thank you, THANK YOU, to all the people who have made it possible to take this next step into real cooking.  The students are noticing.

To see our wish list of initial items we need, please click here.

Soon we will be able to use the range and expose students to more “normal” ways to cook which helps in two directions – the timing and understanding of a range for a professional chef in one direction, and how to cook healthier food choices using your stove at home in the other.  What will we cook first???

Thanksgiving 2009

A school-wide Thanksgiving feast has been a tradition at Ida B. Wells for years.  The kitchen becomes a kitchen again in a different sense and we serve up a classic fare for the student body.   Teachers brought in cooked turkeys, hams, mashed potatoes and salad.

This year, my students contributed a few pies, and did much of the prep work.  While many of them were suspicious of the pumpkin pie we made, there is a magic pride that happens when you see your efforts put on a plate and served to others – and then see them enjoy it.  I had a few students come up to me and say how good it was too.

And this apple pie?  I had to fight people off so those who made it could at least see the results!

Thank you to Mrs. E. & Mrs. J. for carrying the responsibility for this feast for so many years and for sharing those valuable pearls of wisdom into this year. We hope you will be back in full force next year.

Visiting NOPA

Laurence in his kitchen as we work.

One Tuesday at the end of last quarter we were able to visit Laurence at NOPA restaurant for our 5th period afternoon class.  Laurence Jossel, one of the owners of NOPA and Nopalito restaurants, has been a wonderful support to our cooking with teenage youth.  From letting us forage in their walk-in to jumping in over the summer with over thirty interested teens without any warning, he has a magnetic way about him and a contagious passion about food and cooking.
I was amazed as he spent a few hours with us that afternoon in his restaurant as we peeled garlic together for one of the spreads used on pizzas.  Amazed at how much value to cooking that could transpire as the students continually peppered him with questions.  I wish I could have taped the conversation. He made peeling garlic a pleasure and the students loved the fact that we were making something people were going to pay for and enjoy, while a number of NOPA chefs made a point of coming over to admire our work.  Our walk back to the high school was full of that excited talking after a wow experience.  “He is a really nice guy,” was the unanimous refrain.
How do you measure the value of this afternoon?   We know in our hearts that coming together around food is valuable and when we take it this direction, where community and food can connect with working practice, it opens unmeasured doorways in one’s mind.  Thank you Laurence for keeping your door open with a smile.