Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Two people, Two Causes, One Meaning

As a child I recall my father saying “What the left hand does the right hand knows nothing about.” And while a young mind may not quite understand sooner or later it all makes sense. The same holds true with giving, volunteering and donating. It's something we do not for recognition, but because it simply is the right thing to do. For me volunteering always makes me feel complete and wholesome. However, what made last Friday so special was that it was the first time that Alex and I were both volunteering on the same day, at the same exact time but separately from one another. While we were at two different locations, working for two different causes, they were equally successful and meaningful.

Alex as part of Goldman Sachs Community Teamworks was volunteering at VNS Choice Adult Day Center in Queens where they were hosting a "carnival" for participants. I on the other hand, was in the Bronx for my first City Harvest Bodega Initiative. Alex helped make lunch for the ladies and gents, then filled the hours playing games, chatting, and even confessed to dancing with several women. Alex (and the other teammembers) helped bring smiles to their faces and made them feel youthful again. I assisted a friend and fellow chef in preparing fresh, mayo-free tuna sandwiches on wheat bread and prepared a "healthy soda" of seltzer water and 100% fruit juice garnished with limes and apples. Residents of the Bronx were encouraged to stop by our booth located in front of La Familia bodega in Tremont and help themselves to a sample of food and recipes. The hope being that they would see how simple, tasty, affordable, and accessible eating well can be. It turned out this healthy initiative was broadcasted on Channel 12 in the Bronx and on a Channel 4 6 o’clock news segment entitled Be Active Be Healthy. Regardless to it being filmed it proved to be a successful event: it got people eating healthier options and provided them with a meal that they could easily recreate. Alex's experience was not recorded on film, but they are several photos. In them you can see that Alex (and the others) help make it a special day for and hopefully provided all participants with a long-lasting memory.

We all feel that we hardly have time in our days, heck we are trained to be at a constant race against the clock, but there is always time to do a small act of good for someone, whether it's a day of giving back, an hour well spent, or a smile, it all goes a long way.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

In a blink it's over...Validus 5x2

Today is Wednesday. Two weeks ago this time I was prepping my girls at Validus High School for their yearend 5x2 celebration. This week I'm already missing them and thinking how quickly our weeks of cooking classes went by. On Friday, June 11th my girls worked hard on decorating, and prepping ingredients for their big event! The goal of the 5x2 Celebration is to have students show other students the things they learned in class. Classes at Validus vary from art, dance, music, theatre and in Dr. Shango's and my case, cooking and they are all hands-on! On this night a large percentage of the school comes to view, taste and enjoy some of the samples offered by fellow students. My class provided samples of yogurt parfait (strawberries, blueberries, homemade granola and yogurt) and a salad with mixed greens, cherry tomatoes and other fixings, dressed with a pineapple vinaigrette. Dr. Shango's class prepared smoothies, homemade fruit drinks and ambrosia (delicious!) Clearly the students of the school enjoyed themselves and so did we. I watched students dance, play instruments, tell stories, eat and more importantly take pride in what they were presenting. I also couldn’t help but remember my high school years, the good, the bad and the ugly! Fortunately the students here have the ability to express themselves with little restriction and an abundance of guidance. Together they made this event a success. To me they wouldn't have it any other way.

At the end of the program Jamie-who btw did an AWESOME job making this event possible-rewarded us teachers with a t-shirt that in so little words said a mouthful about the dedication we offered.

Thank you everyone at Validus for inviting me into your school and allowing me to share my love of cooking and teaching with your students. Look forward to next semester! And girls please do keep in contact!

Monday, June 7, 2010

An Invite to the White House Grounds

I am psyched to announce that because of my works as an OFL Chef at City Harvest, I was asked to be a part of the launch of Chefs Move to Schools—a part Mrs. Obama's Let's Move campaign. The campaign's
mission is to stop childhood obesity by 2015. In this case chefs like myself will be placed in a school and work closely with parents, teachers, school nutrition professionals and others, to help educate children about food and nutrition. It is true this mission will be difficult—think Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution—but, the cause extremely powerful and necessary.

On June 4th fellow chefs and friends, Leslie, Melissa, Michelle and I were off to Washington, DC! First for a breakfast forum presented by Share Our Strength and then to the actual launch at the White House grounds! Hundreds of other chefs nationwide (all dressed in our whites!) had the honor of going to the White House lawn, touring the actual White House garden and being among fellow chefs and celebrity chefs alike all in hopes of making a difference in how our children are feed. Among those attending this "historic day of food", as described by White House Chef Sam Kass, were Anne Burrell, Marcus Samuelsson, Aaron McCargo, Daniel Boulud, Carla Hall, Tom Colicchio, Michael Laiskonis, Cat Cora, Lydia Bastianich, Art Smith and of course first lady Mrs. Michelle Obama. Overall the event was extremely inspirational and definitely served as a historic moment!

I look forward to seeing the next step in this project, as well as the successes and hardships that we will face in making this goal a reality. I will continue to keep track of my journey of Chef's Move to Schools as things progress! So stay posted. Even as I write this I have to pinch myself to see if this experience was all a dream…it was just that incredible! Btw, more pics available on Facebook!