Trip Recap 11/11: A Day with Edible Schoolyard

[This post is brought to you by our guest blogger and CulinaryCorps team member April Neujean with pictures by Allie Carroll. Special thanks to Whole Foods Market Louisiana for making this project possible.]

(Say hello to our team!) 

A very big day for CulinaryCorps kicked off first thing in the morning at our flagship Edible Schoolyard New Orleans (ESY NOLA) site at Samuel J. Green Charter School (a signature program of FirstLine Schools).  Team CulinaryCorps led the entire seventh grade in an Iron Chef Breakfast Battle to see who’s cuisine would reign supreme.   The chairman’s choice of secret ingredient? Creole Cream Cheese!

(Game on!)

The six Iron Chef Teams consisted of five teams manned by two CulinaryCorps chefs and one team staffed by ESY chefs.  Each team was required to create one dish featuring the secret ingredient to be presented before the judges, our 7th grade teachers.

(Who knew one tiny burner could lead to something so tasty?)

All of the groups presented elegant plates, far surpassing anyone’s expectations, but at the end of the hour, the home team led by our very own ESY chefs was named the winner with a gourmet rendition of Green Eggs and Ham Tarts and Bananas Foster French Toast.  (Perhaps they had a bit of an advantage cooking with kids every day.)

(This breakfast burrito was not the winning dish. But it sure was delicious).

Next we traveled to Langston Hughes Academy (LHA) where CulinaryCorps led a “Cafeteria Bootcamp”.  This idea came about because we at ESY NOLA and FirstLine Schools have been working for the last 5 years to improve the quality and nutrition of our school food menus.  We’ve added salad bars at all FirstLine Schools, increased our whole grains and incorporated fresh fruit and vegetables into menus made from scratch every day.

(Team Squash Before. Photo credit: CulinaryCorps)

While these changes have been significant, they’ve been a challenge for our café staffs who have little to no formal cooking training and limited equipment.  The CulinaryCorps chefs were able to impart their professional wisdom to address specific cooking techniques and visual presentation.  This is key because as we all know, people eat with their eyes.  No matter what changes we make to improve our recipes, the café staffs are more than just cooks, they’re our marketers, too.  The session ended with smiles, hugs, laughter, and some much-improved dishes. Plus, one beautiful salad bar!

(Team squash after! Photo Credit: CulinaryCorps)

Believe it or not, the day was not over yet!  The chefs got back in the van and traveled to yet another ESY/FirstLine school, Dibert Community School.  Here they rolled out the 1st ever Dibert Family Food Night: The Curious Case of the Missing Pyramid.  This included a variety of hands-on cooking stations and recipes, written, designed, and executed by CulinaryCorps chefs.

(Brain Boost! station used lettuce instead of bread for their fish salad. Folks really liked the crunch.)

Christine encouraged kids and families to “think like detectives” and to solve the mystery by picking up clues at each station. (The clues were actually puzzle pieces which once assembled revealed the new USDA My Plate icon.)   To earn a puzzle piece, the students had to complete (and eat!) a recipe each station. It was an unprecedented turnout with over 150 students and their family members rotating through six hands-on cooking stations and four nutrition and gardening activities.

(Nothing like a nice local sweet potato to get kids (and parents) inspired.)

They made Sunshine Quinoa Salad (for the whole grain piece), Tuna Lettuce Wraps (protein), Rainbow Wraps with Herbed Cream Cheese (veggies), Super Smoothies (fruits), and Buttermilk Dressing with Veggie Dippers (Dairy) as well as a bonus veggie station led by ESY, Sweet Potato and Coconut soup. Students and parents alike were surprised by how much they loved the new dishes and “can I have the recipe?” was the number one question of the evening. It was clear our detectives solved the  mystery and were hungry for more.

(One very happy detective.)

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