Kids take over the kitchen at The Hungry Oven
What do you get when you throw five curious, do-it-yourself kids into a kitchen? While your instincts might say a mess, this is far from the case in The Hungry Oven kitchens. There they are taught to not only cook like chefs, but to clean like chefs as well. I saw and experienced this first hand last week as I was treated to a four course meal by five students of the Hungry Oven Cooking School.
With help from Chef Dahn, Gus, Daniel, Bridget, Aria and Harry diligently seasoned, steamed, cooked, baked and garnished each dish with a smile on their face and a team attitude.
“Okay guys looking good, we’re right on time. Great job staying on schedule.” Chef Dahn said with a proud look on her face. “Wait, we’re on time? How can that be? I’m cooking!” Harry said with a chuckle.
Since timeliness is key in cooking it was important that each child cooperated with each other and completed their duties on time; they did so with flying colors.
The dishes prepared that evening were served with Sangria with fresh fruit and frozen grapes as well as San Pellegrino.
Crudite with cooked Moroccan hummus, and grilled flatbread
Cooked Lemon Confit atop a Moroccan Couscous Salad
Tabouli Casserole with artichoke hearts, bulgar wheat and chickpeas
Egyptian Orange Cake with whip cream and orange garnish
The students that day ranged from age 11 to 14 and so are all in different levels of culinary skills. Regardless, they are all familiar with preparing delicious and healthy meals while having the audacity and desire to develop their skills further. They've learned the basics already and continue to advance their skills with every meal they make. Most importantly, they think being in the kitchen and producing their own meals is fun.
Gus Koenigsfest, a 14 year old, has competed in the BC Chef’s Association’s Teen Cooking Contest, placing third and claiming the title of the youngest competitor to enter. The dish that helped him win third place? A Mexican cheese, chocolate ravioli. With such culinary prowess and achievements come certain responsibilities it seems; he not only helps out with the grocery shopping but also regularly cooks at home for his parents.
Just as Gus has become a “celebrity”, Bridget has showcased her culinary skills publicly during a cooking demo on Global BC Saturday Morning News.
After a great evening with some wonderful women, two of whom were moms, it made me wonder why I was never exposed to this level of cooking when I was young. A simple answer would be that although there are similar cooking schools for children The Hungry Oven really is a one of a kind training system. Not only does it teach healthy eating habits but it provides kids with an opportunity to cook with professional chefs in a commercial kitchen. It's setting them up to build life long skills in the kitchen.
How it began
Debby Tonn and her husband were on the last day of a trip to New York in March 2010 and were spending it indulging at the spa. Her husband’s treatment went longer than hers did so she spent some time reading magazines. An article she came across focused on two women in New York who began a cooking camp for kids; Debby's interests were piqued. These women would gather a group of five to six children and go to one of the child's home. There they would cook together and the women would share knowledge and techniques. Inspired by their story she deciding that she wanted to replicate this business model and so began researching different culinary schools for kids as she conjured up ideas on how to make it her own. Within a month of being home she was registered, corporated, her logo and trademarks were done and it was just a matter of finding space. After some difficulties with the District of North Vancouver but a lot of persistence on her part, she eventually found the current location and got the ball rolling.
What the space used to look like (above)
Now, after just over a year in business the school is getting a lot of media attention for the results it's bringing, not to mention a lot of great feedback from those involved.
For more information about The Hungry Oven visit their website.
For more photos check out my gallery on Flickr.