Aspiring chefs from P.S. 234 and P.S.150 had a chance to make avocado wraps, meat and vegetable skewers and decorate cupcakes at the Taste of Tribeca open house held on January 24th. The group of novice cooks wearing professional style chef’s hats, took instruction from some of the best with Jehangir Mehta of Mehtaphor, Patrick Nuti of ROC and Gayle Aschenbernner, otherwise known as Mrs Cupcake putting them through their paces. Gourmelle tagged along to see what would happen.
For some it was an awe-inspiring experience.
“I think I got to come because of my good attendance,” confided Robert, a third grader from P.S.234 as he piled avocado mixture into a lettuce leaf. “I’m taking this home for my Mom.”
For Taste of Tribeca organizers the event was a chance to explain the annual food fundraiser to new restaurants and members of New York’s media and to thank restaurants for their continued support. Gourmelle spotted reporters from the Tribeca Trib, DNA Info , the Daily News and the New York Times busily interviewing kids and chefs alike.
Rocco, ebullient owner of Roc threw open his doors for the event and kept the kids and the reporters laughing. When he spotted Lisa Ripperger, principal of P.S.234 he issued a playful threat.
“I’m gonna make Lisa eat it all,” he said as the meat skewers emerged sizzling from the kitchen.
But he went on to wax lyrical about why he loves to be a part of Taste of Tribeca. “School is the future of life,” he said. “If we learn how to cook, we learn how to eat, and then if we get interested in cooking, we eat a healthier diet.”
Jehangir Mehta is also an advocate of starting to cook and eat well early.
“People are always telling kids, you’re not going to like this food,” he said. “But I say let them try it. These kids are proud to be making these things. We should help kids have a positive attitude to food.”
Beyond the Open house, Mehta encourages kids to try new food at his Gastrokids classes.
Sadie, a 5th grader from P.S.150, said she had learnt a lot. “The meat before it was cooked was all gooey,” she said. But her top pick of the day was the cupcakes.
Eliana and Taj, third graders from P.S.234 agreed that the cupcakes were, so to speak, the icing on the cake.
“It was fun to decorate the cupcakes,” said Taj. “But I also liked doing all the different steps in the avocado wrap.”
“I’ll try it at home,” said Eliana.
Patrick Nuti, the chef at ROC who led the meat skewer making, said kids get hooked on cooking if they can use lots of different ingredients.
“Kids like to do a lot of tasks and use colorful foods like red peppers. Minimalism can come later,” he said with a smile.
As the adults watched the kids strut their culinary stuff, they snacked on muffins and croissants from Sarabeth’s, one of the new entries to Taste of Tribeca last year. ROC’s barrista made reviving frothy coffees seemingly non-stop.
But for Gourmelle, the crowning glory of the whole delightful event was when Robert, the third grader, made an announcement.
“I never worked with a chef before,” he said. “I think I want to be a chef when I grow up.”