Home Food Master Chefs Junior: Local Kids Exploring Passions for Food

Master Chefs Junior: Local Kids Exploring Passions for Food

From classes and camps at Midway Community Kitchen, to volunteering with PORCH, organizing a new farmers market and grilling on a national Food Network stage, these young foodies are making things happen.

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Photo by Briana Brough

THE NOVICE CHEFS

This summer, Midway Community Kitchen offered cooking camps for budding foodies in town. We caught up with a few campers as they cooked their way through Asia.

Djina, 8

WHAT I LIKE ABOUT COOKING
I like that you get to explore by smelling and tasting.

LESSONS I’VE LEARNED AT CAMP
I’ve learned how to mince and dice and the difference between them.

FAVORITE DISH MADE
I liked the dumplings that we made from China and, on Monday, we made the samosas from India.

Sanze, 6

ON LEARNING HOW TO COOK
We have a paper with all the ingredients. We get to know how to make it and mix all the ingredients together.

NEW FAVORITE
I hadn’t heard of samosas before but I like them now.

ALL-TIME FAVORITE FOOD
Chocolate cake.

Yiyun (Cece) Zhang, 7

HARDEST PART ABOUT MAKING DUMPLINGS
Putting the filling in the wrapper.

DREAM MEAL TO COOK FOR MY FAMILY
I would make some juice and pizza. Then I would make some cookies and ice cream.

FAVORITE SNACK
Hello Panda cookies.

Campers assemble their dish with instructors Kelly Knapp and Alexa Schleien. Photo by Briana Brough

Eva Choe, 9

FAVORITE THING LEARNED AT CAMP
Maybe cutting because before I never got to use one of those really big sharp knives. At camp I learned how to use it.

FAVORITE FOOD
I really like sushi. And mango and mochi. I really like Japanese food.

Anya Kallepalli, 8

TAKEAWAYS
I only cooked a little bit at home before because I thought it wouldn’t be fun, but now that I came here, it seems more fun. Since my family’s Indian and we have samosas, I might start helping with those.

LESSONS LEARNED
We know how to carry the knives when we’re walking and we always have to use oven mitts when near the stove.

Matteo Chi, 7

LESSON LEARNED
Now I know how to chop with a knife.

FAVORITE PART ABOUT COOKING
Using the stove. My mom and dad don’t let me do that at home.

FAVORITE FOOD
Macaroni and cheese.

Mirabelle Chi, 9

COOKING AT HOME
I help my grandmother with cookies or brownies. Two days ago I made chocolate chip cookies with walnuts. That time I actually made them myself.

SWEET TREATS
We made a semolina cake in camp. It turned out good except we forgot to add almond.


Photo by Briana Brough

THE ADVOCATE

This summer, folks living near Cedar Falls Park could buy fruits and vegetables during a pop-up farmers market on Sunday afternoons and they had a 12-year-old to thank for it. Marin Lissy, a seventh-grader, dreamed up the market a year ago when answering an essay contest prompt looking for ideas to help increase access to healthy food. Her essay – that included an idea for a fundraising cookbook for Farmer Foodshare – won out and her suggestion became Produce for Parks in July. “I [thought] about a mobile farmstand because a park in my community was getting a lot of use. I had seen a sno-cone truck go through there and being a kid, I was interested in that,” Marin recalls. “Then I started thinking, ‘Well, if there’s a sno-cone truck, why can’t we have fresh produce?’”

Her efforts were supported by the Town of Chapel Hill Parks and Recreation and funded by the Junior League of Durham and Orange Counties. She reached out to farmers and brought on Minka Farm, Jimmy Acres Farm and the Chapel Hill Farmers’ Market, which had a selection of excess produce from their Saturday market. As for her impact on the community, Marin says, “I’d really like to see some family going to the park and not necessarily expecting a farmers market. They might play a little bit, buy some fresh food, go home and make a really yummy dinner. That just makes me smile – thinking about how this could impact people.”


Neil, Siena and Hannah Joshi with mom Kelly. Photo by Briana Brough

THE VOLUNTEERS

Despite only being 5 years old, Hannah Joshi has already gotten a taste of helping out the community through PORCH. When she was in preschool, Hannah rode along with her mom, Kelly, a neighborhood coordinator for the organization that collects and distributes food to families in need. “They make bags and they leave them on their porch,” Hannah says of her neighbors’ contributions she and her mom pick up and bring to a central sorting location.

In the summer, older siblings, Neil, 11, and Siena, 8, can help out too and they’ve got their own roles. Neil carries donated items from the volunteers’ trunks inside and Siena sorts through the snack items with her sister. In addition to PORCH, the siblings also have worked with the Town of Chapel Hill’s Food for the Summer (FFTS) program. After the lunches are delivered, Hannah says they can stick around and play with the other kids. “Sometimes we draw or jump rope,” Hannah says. “Sometimes we can read to them.” Their involvement in the programs gives them a unique view on making a difference. “I think most people often think of volunteering as a chore or something you have to be doing, while PORCH and Food for the Summer are an enjoyment,” says Neil, who also served as a swim teacher through the YMCA’s Swim for Life program in the afternoons.

When the kids aren’t out with their mom, you might find them at the table enjoying an Indian dish like dal dhokli or khichdi from their grandmother who lives with the family half of the year. Or they might be baking – the kids’ food allergies mean avoiding dairy and eggs – and a vegan banana bread is a favorite. It’s a crowd-pleaser in part because they all get to “lick the bowl!”


With school out for the summer, more kids can volunteer alongside the adults at PORCH. Photo by Briana Brough

FOOD FOR THE SUMMER

WHAT IT IS:

The program launched in summer 2016, provides weekday lunches and summer fun at walkable meal sites to kids throughout Chapel Hill and Carrboro during summer break. The program partners with various community organizations to provide interactions with community members like library staff and police officers, activities like swim lessons facilitated by the YMCA and Town of Chapel Hill’s Parks and Recreation Department and Free Book Wednesdays for the kids.

KEY PLAYERS:

TABLE, PORCH, Book Harvest of Durham, Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, local farmers markets, Inter-Faith Council for Social Service, local police departments, Chapel Hill’s mobile library Circulator, Town of Chapel Hill, Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina, CHCCS Director of Dining Liz Cartano of Chartwells; Chapel Hill Mayor Pam Hemminger, Food for the Summer Program Director Emma Jenkins-Sullivan, sponsors and – of course – all of the program’s volunteers.

IMPACT:

Last year the program provided 48,000 meals, 24,000 of which were delivered by Food for the Summer volunteers. As of July 14 this year, more than 24,000 meals had been provided for local children, with over 10,000 being delivered by program volunteers. –Lauren Wilkinson

To find out more, visit foodforthesummer.org.


THE GRILL MASTER

Gill and his South Korean cooking instructor.

Most chefs twice or three times Gill Corbett’s age haven’t accomplished nearly what the kid chef has at age 11. Already, he’s appeared on a Food Network show, raised money for food nonprofits and written a book. This summer his family spent time in Seoul, South Korea, thanks to his dad’s work trip, and Gill took cooking and language classes and visited local markets.

Immersed in the culture, he learned about traditional cooking where the chef cooks directly over ashes and developed an affinity for bulgogi, a dish with shredded beef and vegetables.

Gill got started at age 3 as he tended to the two family gardens. “One giant garden has everything: radishes, cucumbers, tomatoes, okra – and then I had an herb garden with basil, oregano, parsley,” Gill says. Lessons in the kitchen were picked up as he helped as his family’s sous chef cutting up vegetables and putting ingredients in the pot for meals and soaked up anything he could from watching the Food Network.

WRAL anchor Gerald Owens, First Lady of NC Kristin Cooper and Gill at a No Kid Hungry Leaders Conference at the Friday Center in February.

When the opportunity arose to audition for the “Kids BBQ Championship,” Gill made surf and turf for his Skype interview. He flew out to California to compete against three other kids and would rather you catch the episode that aired in June – available to download on Amazon – than reveal how he fared. “They give you the dish and you make it your own,” Gill recalls. “Then you walk over to the pantry to pick ingredients to make your signature sauce.” Returning home from his TV experience, he penned a book called “Gill on the Grill” and raised funds for TABLE and No Kid Hungry like the high-profile chefs he admires.

As for the future, Gill is learning how to help fight global hunger like one of his charitable role models. “I do like Guy Fieri and all the restaurants he goes to,” Gill says. “He always wants to try something new.”