Why a non-profit cooking program for kids?
My backgrounds in medicine (father was a physician/surgeon), dental (I am a dentist), circus (attended clown school) and culinary provided vital tools to promote healthy communities. As dentistry has established through regular checkups, fluoride etc, prevention of disease works! Plus…as I tell my kids, A Good Chef is Never Without Friends!
Teaching kids is one of the most rewarding things in my career and I encourage all cooking teachers, if they have not taught kids before, to learn best practices from the many talented professionals in IACP that specialize in kids. It is rewarding and makes for healthier communities.
How did a dentist become a clown? And how did a dentist-clown get into cooking?
After completing dental school in Vancouver, Expo ’86 brought the best streetperformers from all over the world to our city. One performer I enjoyed was Fred Garbo, who was also Barclay the Dog on Sesame Street. I invited him to dinner figuring he hadn’t had a home cooked meal for weeks. This started a lifelong friendship and introduced me to many of the world’s top jugglers and circus performers and I attended their circus/antic workshops in the New England area.
In our home kitchen, my mother taught Chinese cooking classes to our neighbours… My grandmother and aunts always had me in the kitchen helping with their wonderful baking treats and dim sum dishes. Cooking and pastry/baking were at the heart of frequent family gatherings, and after dental school I pursued culinary training to augment my understanding of culinary techniques.
What makes the 8-12 age group the perfect age for teaching kids how to cook?
Childhood obesity studies have shown the most effective prevention occurs when preventative measures are introduced before the teenage years. We found instilling cooking competency at an early age empowered kids to want to cook healthier meals at home rather than eating fast food alternatives. This age group are keen to learn, delightful to work with, and have the manual dexterity to learn basic cooking skills with adequate supervision.
You recently created a web series for the SuperChefs program. How did that come about?
Unable to run in-person cookery camps for 2 summers due to Covid, we produced cooking “how to” videos to augment the Zoom meet ups we organize. We have now shot a TV pilot for a series based on some of the characters, and are in the process of gathering partners for production.
Any teachers can use our webisode lesson plans to help engage kids in cooking, available at www.superchefs.org
SuperChefs is also partnering with Food for Soul – can you give an update on that?
SuperChefs Program Director, Jill Conklin (past Chair of IACP’s Kids in the Kitchen) is Strategic Development Officer for Food for Soul, a non-profit created by Michelin-star Chef Massimo Bottura. SuperChefs partnered with Harlem Grown this summer 2021 to give the dietetic interns from Columbia University/Teachers College some experience in youth culinary initiatives. We plan to involve them in our first entry which is targeted in the Refeterrio project in Harlem.
There is always room for IACP members to be involved, as you can never have too many chefs in these kitchens. Helping to feeding those most in need as well as educating future leaders in the community is so rewarding and essential in today’s worl