Carleton Firebellies work with Northfield students

The Carleton College Culinary Club the Firebellies works with Northfield Middle School students who are active in the youth center to explore creativity in the kitchen and the “universal language of food.” (Photo courtesy of Vayu Rekdal and the Firebellies’ website)

The Firebellies, Carleton College’s Culinary Club, started about a year ago as a result of Carleton sophomore Vayu Rekdal’s lifelong love of cooking.

Now, due to the recent award of a $400 Statewide Health Improvement grant through Healthy Rice County, the Firebellies will have the opportunity to continue to spread the joy of cooking to young area students through the continuance of the Young Northfield Chefs program — one of the many activities and initiatives that occupy the Firebellies’ time.

Young Northfield Chefs is a program that connects Carleton students with Northfield Middle School students who are active in the Northfiled youth center to explore different facets of cooking and nutrition.

Students in the Firebellies Club visit Northfield Middle School once a week for each five-week-long session. The second session begins on Thursday. The first couple meetings of a session focus on simple things like roasting nuts or stove top cooking and as meetings go on, the focus progresses to more complex recipes.

“We start out with rudimentary things like making salsa or guacamole. Then, as we get to know each other and become more advanced in our cooking skills, we move on to more intricate cooking,” said Rekdal.

During Young Northfield Chefs meetings, Carleton students try to use the “universal language of food” to give the middle school students a chance to be creative in the kitchen, better understand cooking and nutrition and to develop relationships, according to Rekdal.

“We try to use the universal language of food to not only develop fundamental cooking skills, but relationships as well. The convergence of the cooking and mentor-ship elements is really beautiful,” he said.

The Young Northfield Chefs program could be expanded as a result of its success, according to Linda Oto, the youth development coordinator for Northfield Community Services. She says that, in the future, she hopes to be able to bring local restaurant owners, chefs and caterers to speak to students in addition to working with the Firebellies.

“The program has been more successful than we could have predicted. We want to bring this opportunity to more students at the youth center, these first few rounds are like a pilot program,” said Oto. “[The Firebellies] are able to totally engage these kids and that is not easy to do--the kids have been able to find something they really enjoy.”

Reach reporter Ashley Klemer at 333-3132 or follow her on @AshleyKlemer.

Reach reporter Ashley Klemer at 333-3132 or follow her on @AshleyKlemer. 

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