Scratch cooking—preparing meals using fresh, local and seasonal ingredients—is a beautiful way to eat. To ensure future generations enjoy satisfying, flavorful meals using non-processed ingredients, REAP Food Group offers Chef in the Classroom.
The program began in 2006 with chef Tory Miller of L’Etoile teaching students at Sherman Middle School to cook healthy food, and it’s since expanded. Lisa Jacobson of Mermaid Café piloted a program aimed at high schoolers, which kicked off at East High School in 2010.
“Our hands-on cooking classes provide an educational opportunity, a future path for health, and a potential career,” says Jacobson, who formerly led REAP’s Farm to School program, which oversees several school-related projects, including Chef in the Classroom.
Mermaid Café assists Natalie Aguirre, East High School’s culinary arts teacher, in providing guest chef educators, plus fresh, local food for five two-day sessions in cluinary basics each semester. Students have cooked sopés with black beans and a sauce made from ancho chiles, sautéed spinach and bacon calzones, slow-cooked gumbo, and Middle Eastern kabobs—and picked up cooking techniques.
“I can tell the kids, ‘This how you chop an onion,’ but when a professional shows them, it has that much more importance,” Aguirre says.