In the summer of 2015, Chef Sam entered her first Sylvia Center classroom as a chef assistant. Since then, she has had several first days with us — first as an assistant, then an instructor, and now, as the City Program Manager. Read her full bio here.
You can hear the squeak of sneakers coming towards the kitchen, voices growing louder, and then there they are. A whole new group of students, all eager to spend their next hour and a half dicing, sautéing, whisking, and sharing a meal. Even if they proclaim that they “don’t like vegetables”, the feeling doesn’t last long for most. Within a few minutes of stepping foot into the kitchen, they’re all introducing themselves, talking about a favorite fruit or snack, and learning the purpose of “mise en place” for the dishes they are about to create.
It’s interesting watching students on the first day of class. There is almost always a mix of seasoned and new students coming in — all working towards their end goal of a delicious meal. Some students jump right into their tasks, slicing and dicing until there is nothing left for them to do. Others take their time and approach the new, sharp tools with a bit of hesitation.
The first day of city classes this fall found Chef Sam at the Williamsburg Community Center. As soon as she entered the kitchen, a group of third graders rushed to the kitchen window. With big grins, they shouted one right after the other, “Chef Sam! Chef Sam! I can’t wait to cook! What are we making today?!”
As Chef Natasha and Chef Manny prepped the ingredients for class, Chef Sam entertained the new young chefs-in-training with some of the day’s lessons. They started with a discussion about the seasons. Then they, reviewed the recipes together — each student shouting out guesses about the main soup ingredient, “It’s a pumpkin!” “It’s a…It’s a…Oh! I know what it is. I just can’t remember?”, “It’s a squash!”
Next, were the apples, which everyone immediately recognized, but were curious as to how they would taste when blended with the butternut squash. Chef Natasha lead the students through their first cuts, then off they went prepping vegetables for soup and mixing batter for the oatmeal raisin cookies that were eagerly awaited. Using new skills such as “tunnel” and “bear-claw”, the students learned to slice and dice, as they prepared fresh local produce for a hearty afternoon snack.
The Williamsburg site has seen many firsts with us. Standing currently as one of our longest running sites, we’ve seen over 30 first days across our six year partnership within the four seasons our Cooks for Health program runs. Students have been lead by a few different instructors, Chef Sam being one of them. This first day was unusual her. Rather than being at the instructor’s cutting board, she found herself off to the side, watching the students connect with their new instructor and practice their skills for the class. As the new City Program Manager, Chef Sam will get to experience many more first days.