Students from the Urban Foundation's Kid City program jumped at the chance to study cooking under the tutelage of Chef Blake Byrum, of Centenary United Methodist Church and LA Prime, in July. The class ran four days from noon to 3, and ended each day with a feast. It happened so fast, you may have missed it, so I want to give you a little "taste" of the responses from students who attended.
Each student chose a favorite dish. Saul Nolasco, who will transfer to UC Santa Barbara this fall, said "Some of the things I most enjoyed from the cooking classes were getting to make something with another person, arranging the food for presentation, and the way cooking was made less daunting with instructions and help from Chef Blake. My favorite dish was the ratatouille because the steps to make it are simple and it's a great meal with just vegetables. Hopefully there is an extension in the future because I would like to learn under Chef Blake's instruction again."
Rodrigo Gonzales, a junior at Cal State Northridge described it this way: "Cooking class definitely taught me lessons to take home and share. Through this experience I was able to learn how to use a sharp knife. As easy as that sounds -- it wasn't. I also learned to not fear cutting out some measurements of your ingredients if it does not meet your expectations you have for the food. Cooking class was a great experience and I am very grateful to have been a part of it!"
All of the students were sorry for the class to end, but were grateful to Chef Blake.
Ricardo Alcantar, a history major currently at Santa Monica College said, "At first, the idea of learning to cook seemed somewhat daunting to me, as if it was something possible through trial, error, and years of experience. But it was simplified by our instructor, Blake, who explained to us that cooking is a lot simpler, as it just requires following a recipe. Over the course of the four day class, Blake taught us that it is also important to be punctual when cooking (since dishes are at risk of being under or overcooked if not tended to carefully), proper cutting technique (knurling the fingers to prevent any cuts to our fingertips), prevention for cross-contamination (the unintentional spread of bacteria or other pathogens between meats and vegetables), and other small tips and tricks when cooking meats, vegetables, and pasta. Thanks to the class, my fear of spoiling food when cooking has decreased significantly and I now view cooking as a very beautiful form of art, a very DELICIOUS one at that!"Pastor Dan Lewis (First UMC of Los Angeles) and I stopped by Centenary to peek at the last class, and conveniently arrived just as students were dishing up their plates. While eating, Chef Blake had each student describe and critique their creation. They may have been critical, but we were amazed: seared salmon with mango salsa, cioppino, stuffed pork, and thai curry were just a few of the dishes. It was delicious!"
The class ended with beautiful gifts from Centenary. Wendell (last name?) gave the students with a cookbook for college students (very appropriate!) and Pastor Mark presented a cutting board and knife to each participant. As the executive director of the Urban Foundation, I have seen Kid City send a lot of kids off to college who sometimes go hungry because they don't know how to cook. This group is sure to be keeping themselves and their friends very well fed.
We are so grateful to Pastor Mark and the rest of the Centenary congregation for so generously embracing Kid City students. We look forward to more wonderful and surprising collaborations such as cooking with Chef Blake!