UT Elementary Students Get In The Kitchen With White House Chef

Can anyone get a group of 20 kids to agree that Brussels sprouts are cool?

It may sound implausible, but that’s exactly what happened last week at UT Elementary.

And dozens of professional chefs, including White House executive pastry chef Bill Yosses, were on hand to witness the moment.

Set to coincide with the International Association of Culinary Professionals’ conference in Austin, the June 1 event celebrated a successful first year of Garden to Table, an after-school program that helps kids make healthy choices by learning to grow and cook their own meals.

The idea is for kids to be active participants in the process by which food gets from garden to table—and to learn along the way.

They go outside to plant seeds and dig in the school garden. They use math skills to measure ingredients and critical reading skills to scrutinize nutrition labels. And they sample foods, like kale or broccoli, that they might have frowned at—or simply never tasted—at home.

The program is part of First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign, a USDA-sponsored effort to fight childhood obesity from all angles. One facet of Obama’s campaign is the “Chefs Move to Schools” program, which matches chefs with schools to teach nutrition and cooking.

UT Elementary is a public charter school in East Austin and, like many schools, has a high incidence of obesity among students. “Everything from weight and diet to dental and pediatric care can interfere with learning and wellness,” says UT Elementary executive director Melissa Chavez.

Austin writer, chef, and nonprofit administrator Toni Tipton-Martin, who runs the Garden to Table program, was invited to the White House last year for the kickoff of the “Let’s Move” initiative.

Now the White House has come to Austin in the form of Chef Yosses, of whom President Obama has said, “Whatever pie you like, he will make it and it will be the best pie you have ever eaten.”

But pastry whiz Yosses is passionate about more than just sweets. At UT Elementary, he told the crowd of kids, parents, teachers, and chefs that he recently whipped up a batch of carrot lemonade for the Obamas. Then he asked the students what new foods they’d tried and liked through Garden to Table.

Several children chimed in, “Brussels sprouts!”

Yosses got into the garden with the kids to harvest some veggies, and then the group headed to Whole Foods Market, where students and chefs prepared a meal together.

Photo by Jill Hokanson


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