Learning By Doing -- And Eating
GENEVA -- Two years ago the Sands Family Foundation and Lowe's helped the Geneva Boys & Girls Club redesign and improve its kitchen's teaching capacity. Since then, club members have been taking regular cooking classes and helping serve dinner each night to more than 90 members.
So when a group of 12 club members turned up at New York Kitchen in Canandaigua in August for a Culinary Camp, the resident chefs were a bit surprised.
"These kids are so advanced,'' Teaching Chef Mary Beth Brinkerhoff said on the camp's first day. "We'll have to revamp the menus.''
For the next four days, the 12 Boys & Girls Club members got the gift -- sponsored by Dr. Dan and Gail Alexander -- of learning side by side with master chefs in the state-of-the-art teaching kitchens that are at the heart of the New York Kitchen facility.
The first day, between 10 a.m. at 1:00 p.m., the kids produced gourmet macaroni and cheese, fried chicken, pan fried fish, jambalaya, corn bread, hush puppies and a puff pastry dessert. Enough to feed them all and left-overs to haul back to their families.
And so the week went, more challenging menus each day, culminating with learning to create and cook delicate fresh pasta and chocolate mousse on the final day.
But lessons went beyond the kitchen. Chefs Brinkerhoff and Geneva' own Matt Wooster discussed menu planning, food cost calculation and, in a highlight for the week, toured several local farms where high quality herbs and animals are being raised to supply local restaurants with the best "farm-to-table" ingredients the new restaurant trends demand.
"It was an amazing week,'' said Chris Lavin, the Boys & Girls Club executive director. "New York Kitchen is an incredible asset to this region. The best, focused learn-by-doing experience we've ever had for our kids. And they even liked doing the math with the recipes!''
The Boys & Girls Club's partnership with New York Kitchen will continue, Lavin said.
"We share the goal with New York Kitchen of giving this region not only great wines, but also great cuisine to go with it,'' Lavin said. "Our kids have a passion for this and we believe can be part of the tourism tide that is raising all boats these days.''
The Culinary Camp was part of Summer University, a collaboration between the Boys & Girls Club, the City School District and Hobart and William Smith Colleges. More than 200 club members are experiencing six weeks of creative clubs, exercise and weekly field trips to the region's attractions.