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Oct 30, 2008 07:59 AM

Cooking club for high school- limited resources!


I wanted to know if there were any suggestions on projects that can be done with high school students as part of an extracurricular club. My students have expressed an interest in a cooking club. We began meeting for 1-1.5 hrs after school once a week. Knowing that we would need money, we began by making chocolate lollipops, chocolate covered pretzels and chocolate covered shortbread for a fundraiser. These were sold and the materials were paid for. We had some money left over to make the recipe for no-knead bread from Zoe Francois, which students took home to bake off. They were very excited to be able to make bread so easily and affordably. At this point, I find myself with NO money and NO ideas and 25 excited students!

As far as money, this is an urban school, so getting it from the administration is not happening. The kids can't pay to join either. As far as materials, we have a microwave and toaster oven (teacher's lounge). I can bring some things from home when needed (hand mixer, crock pot, etc). We can't use the school kitchen because of a clause in the kitchen worker's contract that states that one of them needs to be there (and be paid) if we use the kitchen. I asked teachers to donate, but I've only gotten an electric sandwich maker (the kind that makes 4 triangles out of sliced bread).

Please help!

Any ideas?

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  1. What you need, Profesora, is a "sustainable" cooking club. Couple of thoughts:

    How about a local church with a kitchen? Maybe you could rev up a monthly event where the kids do a meal, and it is promoted to the school and the church (and community) as a fundraiser, and they split proceeds with the church, and hopefully make enough to buy goods for the next meal?

    1 Reply
    1. re: woodburner

      This is a good idea for me to keep in mind for next year, especially since our students are required to do community service...but I guess I forgot to mention that I'm almost 7 months pregnant right now and really need to keep this to 1-3 hrs per week after school.

    2. One other idea (to get some help for the club) is to see if any of the restaurants in your area are willing to donate some old equipment, some time, or even some pantry items. I know down here in NYC, some of the Food Network chefs help out the Long Island City High School culinary program...

      2 Replies
      1. re: CeeBee

        Further on CeeBee's idea, perhaps a local restaurant could provide a tour? It might be really fun for these keen kids to see a professional kitchen. Perhaps the chef could give them a quick demo. I did something like that at a museum's restaurant kitchen and the kids loved it. It may not be hands-on cooking, but may be something they'd be interested in.

        1. re: MrsCris

          Along this same vein, check with area grocery stores. They may be able to help out in the area of food supplies. Many of them are involved in various aspects of giving back to their communities. You could even try to get a store or restaurant to be a sponsor.

      2. In conjunction with Martha Stewart's new "Cooking School" book, her TV show is having a weekly Cooking Class segment, on Wednesdays, I believe. It might be worthwhile for you to record these as a resource for the club.

        1. Do you know anyone who has a set of buffet ranges? I have a single burner as well as a two burner set. The single one was a gift but I think the double one cost me around $30. I used it when I moved and it took a while to get the gas turned on in my home. I was able to cook pretty much anything that could be cooked on a regular stove using it. Maybe you could borrow something like that? Goodness, if I was closer, I'd loan you mine since they just sit in storage until I need them or a friend needs them for some reason.

          You could also teach them simple things like knife skills, making a vinaigrette (something I didn't know anything about until the past couple of years), different salad combinations, etc. Things that do no require cooking can come in handy.

          1. Definitely talk to some local supermarkets, and if you have a local farmers market, talk to some of the growers/sellers. Maybe you can work out a deal where they can give you what's left over. You might end up with some bruised apples, and less than fresh zucchini, but everything is a lesson. Apples can be made into mini apple pies, zucchini into zucchini pancakes.

            Since your students are in high school, they (should) have the skills necessary to make a budget. How about agreeing on a budget for each class, and deciding on a basic theme. For example, holiday cookies. Have the kids decide exactly what they want to do, and let them calculate ingredient costs. Not only will they learn how to make something, but they'll understand how much it costs. If a student mentions that butter is really expensive, there's your chance to explain why quality ingredients are expensive.

            You can also have a 'clear out the fridge' lesson. Bring in some basics (or accumulate leftover basics from past recipes) and have each student bring in an ingredient. Nothing too expensive, but make sure to decide if you're going to do savory or dessert. It's always a challenge to come up with something when you have a bunch of random ingredients before you.

            Also, what about advertising your club in some local papers and craigslist? (if the administration agrees) Mention what you're doing, the supplies you have, and the supplies you need. You might get a lot of responses from people willing to donate cookware.

            Tours are also a great idea. A lot of cities have small factories, like those that make tortillas or local cheese. Going to one of those could be interesting for your students. If you get creative, you can keep the kids happy without spending a lot. The produce manager/buyer at a local supermarket can teach the students a lot about purchasing fruits and vegetables and storing them. Maybe you can get a parent to come in and talk about cooking for many people on a budget.

            Lastly, I think it's important to experiment. Hopefully, many of your students will go away to college and have only the equipment you have now in their dorms. Think of it as a challenge. As the kids what foods they like to eat, and experiment together using what you've got.