Seven Northfield Middle School students involved in the Young Northfield Chefs program “got their hands dirty” Thursday as they tested their cooking skills with professional Bon Appetit chefs at Carleton College, making pizza from scratch — even hand-tossing the dough — after a full tour of the campus.
The Young Northfield Chefs program connects Carleton students involved in the school’s Culinary Club, The Firebellies, 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 usually visit Northfield Middle School once a week for each five-week session, but this event gave The Firebellies a chance to show the Young Northfield Chefs around their Carleton College instead.
Firebellies founder Vayu Rekdal said that the students’ full tour of campus — which also included the kitchens and the school’s compost site — combined with the chance to cook with professionals to be a unique opportunity for the middle school students.
“I think there were three big things that ended up being benefits for the students in this event,” Rekdal said. “First, I think showing the students around a college campus and showing them a little bit about student life and what we do was really fun for them — and I know it was for us. Second, they got to see an industrial, restaurant-sized kitchen. And third, they got to cook with some professional chefs. It’s a very unique experience that you don’t usually get to have every day.”
The unique opportunity also proved to be an enjoyable one, according to Bon Appetit Sous Chef Gibson Price, who said that tossing the pizza dough with the middle-schoolers was a “very fun” experience.
“Some of those kids looked like professionals, there were a few that tossed the pizza dough better than I could. It looked like they had been doing it for years,” he said.
Price also said that the event provided an opportunity to teach the students about proper nutrition and sustainability — two concepts that are “big” for Bon Appetit.
“Having the chance to talk with the students about nutrition and sustainability was great,” he said. “These students will be taking something new home and teaching their family what they learned. It is that element of community outreach and bringing new kids into the college that are a few of the things that make The Firebellies so great.”
The Firebellies recently received a $400 Statewide Health Improvement grant through Healthy Rice County to continue the Young Northfield Chefs program.
Reach reporter Ashley Klemer at 645-1115 or follow her on Twitter.com @AshleyKlemer.