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More than muffins

Frog Hollow Neighbourhood House

The kitchen at Frog Hollow Neighbourhood House in east Vancouver is buzzing. Busy cooks are mixing, stirring, tasting; and the place smells great. It reminds visitors of Kitchen Stadium on the popular cooking show Iron Chef, only the cooks in this kitchen are all about 12 years old, leaping about with the charming and gangly goofiness of youngsters that age.

One boy has his arm around an enormous aluminum mixing bowl, scraping up every last bit of batter for the apple-oatmeal muffins he’s making. His self-appointed sous chef is cleaning up behind him, while others make yummy noises over the bananachocolate chip muffins in the oven. “This batch is done. Where’s the next one?” calls out one pre-teen cook, setting two others tripping over each other to get the next loaded muffin tin.

Vancouver Foundation helped the after-school culinary arts program for pre-teens get off the ground last fall with a $500 grant given through its Youth Philanthropy Council. The program ran once a week for seven weeks. Registration was limited to 10, partly because the kitchen is a little small and also for safety reasons. Vancouver Foundation’s grant was supplemented by a $200 donation from the Pacific Culinary Institute, which also provided a volunteer chef to teach the kids the how-to of filleting a salmon, working with phyllo pastry and creating the perfect chocolate mousse.

Budding chefs Ellen and Vivian are both 12 years old. Ellen wants to be a caterer when she grows up. She says she will cater mostly Asian foods but also “foods from all around the world.” Vivian is keen on baking, especially cupcakes, which she just loves to decorate. Her creations look like little pink and yellow crowns with candy jewels.

The most exciting moment for Vivian during cooking class was when a pan of shrimp caught on fire. Ellen’s high point was making spaghetti, something she had never tried before. “It was really cool,” says Ellen. “A real chef was teaching us and we did things I can’t do at home because my big sister is always in the kitchen.” Leif Buendia is the energetic 27-year-old pre-teen coordinator at Frog Hollow. “It was amazing. The chef brought in her 20 professional chef knives and no one cut themselves!”

His goal, besides making sure no one lost a finger, was to teach nutrition. “A lot of these kids come from homes where they are not aware of healthy cooking. So from my perspective, I’m very glad the chef made the program healthy and organic.”

The pre-teens learned that fast food restaurants use yellow, red and orange because those are the colours that stimulate hunger.
They found out that boys between the ages of 12 and 19 drink an average of 868 cans of pop every year, that McDonald’s salads contain up to 60 per cent more fat than their burgers and that rubber is one of the ingredients in bubble gum.

The cooking classes did more than just teach the youth how to make souvlaki and prepare a bouquet-garni for a soup stock (and that grapes explode in the microwave). It also helped dissolve the cliques within the after-school program. Nothing breaks down barriers of difference quite like the shared goal of figuring out how to use a pasta-making machine and then sitting down together to eat the results. That’s one reason why the recipes included food from all over the world – so the youth could learn more about each other, and build understanding and trust. At the end of the program, they got a menu book to take home and try out some of their new recipes, introducing their parents to new foods and new ideas.

That’s the element of the program that excites Tanya Findlater, youth services coordinator at Frog Hollow Neighbourhood House. “We have Vietnamese, Chinese, Filipino kids,” says Tanya. “They eat together, bring the recipes home and their parents are eating food from different cultural backgrounds. It builds understanding.”

This small program is getting a big boost this fall. Vancouver Foundation is continuing its funding, the Pacific Culinary Institute will be back with a new volunteer chef and professional food services company Aramark is donating a new kitchen and appliances. The neighbourhood house is also building garden beds that will be both for the community and for the culinary arts program, so the kids will cook vegetables they’ve planted and grown. There will also be fundraising events such as family dinners made by the kids and gardening and nutrition workshops that Tanya hopes will bring the parents of the pre-teens into the Frog Hollow “family” and allow everyone to interact more with one another.

It’s the kind of youth-driven program that Tanya says is the key to sparking real engagement in the community. “I hope we’re creating a sense of leadership at an earlier age so when they get older and get involved in our other programs, they’re going to be more amazing than they already are.”

 

Nothing breaks down barriers of difference quite like the shared goal of figuring out how to use a pasta-making machine, and then sitting down together to eat the results.

The kitchen at Frog Hollow Neighbourhood House in east Vancouver is buzzing. Busy cooks are mixing, stirring, tasting; and the place smells great. It reminds visitors of Kitchen Stadium on the popular cooking show Iron Chef, only the cooks in this kitchen are all about 12 years old, leaping about with the charming and gangly goofiness of youngsters that age.

One boy has his arm around an enormous aluminum mixing bowl, scraping up every last bit of batter for the apple-oatmeal muffins he’s making. His self-appointed sous chef is cleaning up behind him, while others make yummy noises over the bananachocolate chip muffins in the oven. “This batch is done. Where’s the next one?” calls out one pre-teen cook, setting two others tripping over each other to get the next loaded muffin tin.

Vancouver Foundation helped the after-school culinary arts program for pre-teens get off the ground last fall with a $500 grant given through its Youth Philanthropy Council. The program ran once a week for seven weeks. Registration was limited to 10, partly because the kitchen is a little small and also for safety reasons. Vancouver Foundation’s grant was supplemented by a $200 donation from the Pacific Culinary Institute, which also provided a volunteer chef to teach the kids the how-to of filleting a salmon, working with phyllo pastry and creating the perfect chocolate mousse.

Budding chefs Ellen and Vivian are both 12 years old. Ellen wants to be a caterer when she grows up. She says she will cater mostly Asian foods but also “foods from all around the world.” Vivian is keen on baking, especially cupcakes, which she just loves to decorate. Her creations look like little pink and yellow crowns with candy jewels.

The most exciting moment for Vivian during cooking class was when a pan of shrimp caught on fire. Ellen’s high point was making spaghetti, something she had never tried before. “It was really cool,” says Ellen. “A real chef was teaching us and we did things I can’t do at home because my big sister is always in the kitchen.” Leif Buendia is the energetic 27-year-old pre-teen coordinator at Frog Hollow. “It was amazing. The chef brought in her 20 professional chef knives and no one cut themselves!”

His goal, besides making sure no one lost a finger, was to teach nutrition. “A lot of these kids come from homes where they are not aware of healthy cooking. So from my perspective, I’m very glad the chef made the program healthy and organic.”

The pre-teens learned that fast food restaurants use yellow, red and orange because those are the colours that stimulate hunger.
They found out that boys between the ages of 12 and 19 drink an average of 868 cans of pop every year, that McDonald’s salads contain up to 60 per cent more fat than their burgers and that rubber is one of the ingredients in bubble gum.

The cooking classes did more than just teach the youth how to make souvlaki and prepare a bouquet-garni for a soup stock (and that grapes explode in the microwave). It also helped dissolve the cliques within the after-school program. Nothing breaks down barriers of difference quite like the shared goal of figuring out how to use a pasta-making machine and then sitting down together to eat the results. That’s one reason why the recipes included food from all over the world – so the youth could learn more about each other, and build understanding and trust. At the end of the program, they got a menu book to take home and try out some of their new recipes, introducing their parents to new foods and new ideas.

That’s the element of the program that excites Tanya Findlater, youth services coordinator at Frog Hollow Neighbourhood House.
“We have Vietnamese, Chinese, Filipino kids,” says Tanya. “They eat together, bring the recipes home and their parents are eating food from different cultural backgrounds. It builds understanding.”

This small program is getting a big boost this fall. Vancouver Foundation is continuing its funding, the Pacific Culinary Institute will be back with a new volunteer chef and professional food services company Aramark is donating a new kitchen and appliances. The neighbourhood house is also building garden beds that will be both for the community and for the culinary arts program, so the kids will cook vegetables they’ve planted and grown. There will also be fundraising events such as family dinners made by the kids and gardening and nutrition workshops that Tanya hopes will bring the parents of the pre-teens into the Frog Hollow “family” and allow everyone to interact more with one another.

It’s the kind of youth-driven program that Tanya says is the key to sparking real engagement in the community. “I hope we’re creating a sense of leadership at an earlier age so when they get older and get involved in our other programs, they’re going to be more amazing than they already are.”  

For more info about programs at Frog Hollow Neighbourhood House, visit their website at www.froghollow.bc.ca
For more info on Vancouver Foundation’s Youth Philanthropy Council, call 604-688-2204

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