Week 8: Finale dinner
Like all good things, our first summer session of Kitchen Possible must came to an end, and this week was our last in the kitchen. Before we started cooking, we took a few minutes to reflect on how far the kids have come over the past 8 weeks. They’ve worked really hard and cooked some awesome food, and I was so proud to tell them that though they started out as a group of kids who were learning to cook, they’re now all cooks.
This week, the kids cooked a meal for their family members, and this was a chance for them to show off their skills a bit. Instead of learning a new recipe, they recreated their favorite dishes from this summer, only in much larger quantities. A few teams made big pots of creamy tomato basil sauce for pasta, some of them roasted vegetables, some put together a beautiful salad and made ranch dressing, and some made pancakes for dessert (the kids insisted we work pancakes into the meal somehow). To the kids’ delight, we had special guests in the kitchen again this week. Chef Stephen Gillanders (opening S.K.Y. in the fall and the kids' favorite chef ever as of last week) joined us again and brought Alan Sosa (sous chef at S.K.Y.). The kids were thrilled to have them there.
The sauce teams started out by chopping bell peppers and sautéing lots of veggies. I love how comfortable with vegetables these kids have become throughout this summer. No questions, no protest, it's just part of the recipe. They had to do lots of checking in to taste their sauces as everything came together, and some decided to add a little extra spice or more Parmesan cheese than the recipe called for. There were a few minor splash incidents by the time they finished their sauce, but that's what their aprons are for!
The salad team had tons chopping and slicing to do, and they were lucky to get some knife skill support from Chef Alan. They also made a delicious ranch dressing, packed with fresh herbs they’d chopped themselves. It was fun watching the kids take so much pride in even the simplest components of the meal. Throughout the class, they’d walk their components of the meal (even a bowl of sliced cucumbers) over the Chef Stephen for inspection/a chance to show off their work. Their faces said it all as they waited for a word of approval.
Last but definitely not least were our two pancake teams. They’d clearly improved their flipping skills since our first attempt at pancakes several weeks back, and it was encouraging to see so few burnt pancakes this time. To really turn their pancakes into a proper desert, we taught the kids to make chocolate ganache. Their eyes were full of joy watching the chocolate and cream come together into a single shiny substance as they whisked it. They might just have eaten as much as they ended up serving with the pancakes…but we’ve taught them all summer that “checking in” is always an important part of cooking.
Chef Stephen taught one of the teams to whip cream with a whisk, to go with the pancakes. Their little wrists worked so hard, and to their own surprise, eventually turned cream and a bit of powdered sugar into a beautiful whipped cream. I suspect they’ll be making this one at home.
The best part of this week’s class was watching the kids share the food with their loved ones. Everyone was really impressed and loved the food, and it was fun to hear a few of the kids bragging about what they’d specifically made that day. This pride and sense of accomplishment is truly what Kitchen Possible is all about. My hope is that these kids understand just how powerful they are and just how much they’re capable of. We’ve worked really hard all summer to show them that no matter what they set out to accomplish, so long as they find/come up with a recipe, follow it closely, and edit as they go, they can do whatever they choose. I truly can’t wait to see what these kids make.
Life Lessons from the Kitchen:
1. This week, in order to make such a large quantity of food, the kids really had to divide and conquer, each team making different components of the meal. We let them know right away that no matter what component they were assigned to, we didn’t want to hear complaints. If someone was assigned to sauce but didn’t want to make sauce and made something else instead, we wouldn’t have enough sauce for all of our pasta! Outside of the kitchen, there will always be jobs we don’t want to do, or contributions that feel less important than others, but in the end, we need them all in order to end up with a great meal.
2. We had the unique opportunity to see the kids making things for the second time this week. It was really cool to see that even for recipes they’d stumbled through the first time (like pancakes), the kids moved with so much more confidence and control the second time around. This is important to remember any time we’re struggling with something new – most things are tough the first time around, and as clichéd as it sounds, practice truly makes a world of difference.
So… given that this was our 8th week in this 8-week long program, we won’t be cooking with the kids again next week. But we WILL be back in the kitchen with them a few months from now, so stay tuned! I’m also incredibly excited that next week, though our lessons have technically come to an end, we'll have a chance to celebrate the kids’ success and hard work with a special dinner at the iconic Gibsons Steakhouse. The kids know only that they’re going on a field trip to a nice restaurant (and that there’s going to be cake), and I’m anxious to see how much fun they have. I’ll be sure to share photos of their faces when they dig in!
Kitchen Possible takes place at Gads Hill Center for youth in their Junior Building Leaders program.