CulinaryCorps


Puerto Rico Daily Update 2: Sapientis
February 2, 2010, 10:18 pm
Filed under: Puerto Rico February 2010

CulinaryCorps volunteers have never enjoyed a warmer, more delicious welcome than we did today, as we were greeted by the Sapientis students in the Culinary and Pastry Arts program at Albert Einstein High School in San Juan.

Armed with pasta machines and our knives, we walked into the culinary classroom at 8am ready to hit the ground running, but were stopped short when we saw the sweet spread displayed before us.

Ham croquettes . . . sweet biscuits with pineapple cream cheese . . . banana cake . . . guava pastries . . . frosted cake with sprinkles.  All for us!  And ALL made by the students themselves.

It didn’t take much convincing for us to put down our knives and dig right in.

In fact, it is these very baked goods that keep the Culinary Arts program afloat at the school.  Under the watchful eye of their incredible instructor, Ms. O’Neill, the students bake and sell their goods to their peers, earning money for equipment, supplies, and even chef coats.  To see this kind of pride displayed by 10th, 11th, and 12th graders is humbling.  Many in the industry take for granted the fact that side towels are a luxury, not a right, and that chef hats are a badge of honor, not a mere accessory.

From the outset, we could see from that these students had real culinary souls.

After introductions amidst the groaning plates of sweets, we broke the group into teams, each consisting of two CulinaryCorps chefs and five culinary students.  The task for the day?  To make a trio of classic recipes: fresh egg pasta, homemade marinara sauce, and salad greens with balsamic vinaigrette.  Yet, after two and a half hours of concentrated work, what each team created was anything but classic . . . creativity was the word of the day!

In addition to the traditional fettucine and angel hair, teams prepared:

  • Garganelli
  • Herbed Orecchiette
  • Calabaza Ravioli
  • Farfalle
  • Spinach Tortellini
  • And even the ham croquettes reappeared in an imaginative take on a ravioli!

Once the dishes were plated and garnished, they were served family style at brightly colored tables lined with hibiscus flowers.  Slurped elbow-to-elbow by students and chefs alike, the noodles were a hugely delicious success.

We learned during our planning of this project that the class is hoping to start a kitchen garden in the spring. To end the workshop and thank the students for their dedication to the day and to the program, we gave the class an indoor “marinara garden” starter kit with tomato and basil seeds as well as an array of culinary herbs. With any luck, these plants will be thriving by the summer!

Finally, after snapping photos and exchanging e-mails, the CulinaryCorps team had one hour to clean and reset for the second group of students.  The fun repeated itself and we were equally impressed with their focus, enthusiasm, and creativity.

We have to thank Sapientis for connecting us with the students of Albert Einstein.  A local non-profit that operates in partnership with at-risk student populations, Sapientis works to foster leadership, self-respect and community involvement.  Organizations like these are helping to change the face of education for underserved populations.

During our wrap-up sessions, we left the students with our greatest pieces of advice:

Work Hard.  Think Smart.  And always cook from your heart.

One student nodded solemnly; another raised his hand and asked, “So you’ll be back next year?”  We couldn’t think of any sweeter words to hear — we’re already looking forward to our return visit!

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1 Comment so far
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Kudos to the staff and students. Looks like they might be wearing our chef coats.

Comment by Chris




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