In a world where no one seems to be getting along, Polly Talbot, owner of A la Carte cooking school in Lynbrook is trying to make a difference. This summer she is running a special cooking camp for beginning chefs that focuses on comfort foods from around the world.
“The whole concept of Junior Chef Unity Week is with what’s going on in our society, I think we have to look to the children. I believe our children will save us,” says Talbot. “It’s a little thing we can do, to say yes we have differences, but differences are not bad. In fact, they can be delicious.”
So over four days starting Tuesday, August 16, the student chefs will learn to prepare global comfort foods including Zuni summer succotash (Native American) gnocchi pomodoro (Italian), sweet potato pie (African American), paratha (Indian) and more.
“It will teach the children what their grandmother might have made them if they lived in a different country or culture,” says Talbot.
A La Carte, which runs date night classes, learn-to-cook series, and heart healthy series among their many classes, offers a fun way to learn basic skills or acquire more sophisticated knowledge of techiniques and world cuisines. Talbot has transformed a 1,500-square-foot storefront into a professional kitchen (which now boasts four Wolf cook tops, six ovens and five workstations that can accommodate 30 aspiring cooks) and offers classes — run by professional chefs — that teach everything from the most basic knife skills to elaborate pastry creations and everything in between.
Students get hands-on and work together to prepare dishes and then sit down to eat them together in a convivial meal time with lots of conversation.
Among the skills the camp will cover are: knife skills, kitchen organization, tools & equipment, reading recipes, measuring ingredients, egg cookery, salad dressings, mayonnaise, herbs and spices, soups, stocks, sauces, food storage, braising, poaching, pasta, baking desserts, working with chocolate, sautéing, deglazing, broiling, frying, grilling, roasting and bread baking
There are a lot of benefits to teaching kids to cook, says Talbot. “Once they make a dish they’ll try it,” she says. “All the mothers tell me that they try new things at home or school. That helps them with healthy eating habits. When kids learn to cook they are more likely to eat better. Any awareness of food will help. It’s important.”
Some kids actually get inspired to take their cooking to the next level. Several A La Carte students have gone on to try their skills on the small screen. Mikayla Layng competed in the Chopped Teen Tournament, while Jack Hoffman competed on MasterChef Junior.
The Junior Chef Unity Week Summer Camp runs from August 16-19 from 11 am – 2 pm and costs $450 per participant. There are other kids offering this summer. For more information call 516-599-2922.