“Oven open!!!” Chef Jillian announced as she carefully removed two casserole dishes. The contents: a beautifully browned Quinoa Berry Brulee, and a Spinach and Cheese Strata, bubbling hot. On this Saturday morning, eleven young women from Perfect Ten After School joined The Sylvia Center’s Chef Jillian Naveh and Chef Assistant Virginia Meza at Valley Variety on Warren Street in Hudson, NY to prepare and enjoy a seasonally inspired “Spring Brunch.” To us, the event perfectly represented the type of collaboration we hope will continue and proliferate in the future, not only for The Sylvia Center, but for all organizations that hope to make a meaningful impact. We strongly believe that the most important can only happen when people work together to leveraging their own strengths and supporting one another.
Perfect Ten, the only girls club in Hudson, was founded by Paula Foreman with the mission to help girls create a positive vision for themselves, find their passions, and connect them with opportunities to explore those things. As a program partner, we work with Perfect Ten as part of our Seed to Plate Culinary Arts program, a six-week cooking program each spring and fall where participants learn about seasonality, whole foods, and food systems.
Valley Variety, a beautifully curated lifestyle store on the main drag in Hudson, has a full working kitchen and hosts cooking classes, demos, and tastings. Chuck Rosenthal,Valley Variety’s owner, has made community a big focus of his business. “It’s important to be aware of what the community needs and to be a part of that solution.” In addition to private and community cooking classes like this one, Valley Variety has also hosted community roundtable meetings and food swaps. Chuck prioritizes making his space available for the community and was thrilled to partner with Perfect Ten and The Sylvia Center for this cooking class.
When the Perfect Ten girls arrived at Valley Variety, wooden cutting boards set with colorful kitchen towels awaiting awaited them. Chef Jillian introduced the recipes and ingredients as the girls quickly got to work. Spinach? Chopped. Cheese? Grated. Onions? Diced. Eggs? Whisked. Some of the Perfect Ten girls have been cooking with us for three years and cook with the confidence to prove it. For the other girls who are just starting their culinary educations with us, their enthusiasm more than makes up for their inexperience.
Laura Miller, Perfect Ten Director who also attended the class, said “Hudson is a food desert and it’s so important that the girls know what fresh food is and how to prepare it. The Sylvia Center programs are very accessible for all ages and experience levels. The cooking class is a great way for the older and younger girls to bond, and being able to be here at Valley Variety makes the experience very special.”
Amidst the busyness of the kitchen with several recipes in the works, I picked up on some of the conversation between the girls, including entertaining moments, like this one between two sisters: “It tastes good!” “Of course it does, it’s walnuts.” And witnessing a culinary emergency requiring that someone immediately “Pass the maple syrup!” When I asked Abigail, age 8, what her favorite recipe she made today was, she quietly said “All of them,” with a big smile. Hailey, age 15, said that she planned to make these recipes at home. Halley, age 12, was most excited about the Spinach and Cheese Strata.
For this meal with Perfect Ten, just like every other meal we’ve shared with them, before eating together they said, smiling and in unison, “Blessings on the meal and each other.” And what a delicious meal together it was.