The culinary team at HFH is exploring new avenues of education and job training during this current era of virtual interaction. One way to get the word out and generate interest for potential careers in the culinary field and the upcoming cohort of trainings at the brand new Allie’s Place Center for Culinary Education & Employment, is to get families who currently reside at Allie’s Place involved in interactive weekly virtual lessons. The virtual lessons bring the state-of-the-art culinary training facility located on the first floor of Allie’s Place, right into the rooms of the families with a little help from Zoom and iPads. This summer, culinary lessons also are offered during HFH’s Virtual Summer Day Camp, where participants will be cooking “around the world” each week.
Robert Seixas, the Director of Culinary Education at HFH, noticed that this is also a unique time for the culinary team to teach clients how to preserve different food groups.
“When the COVID-19 pandemic first began, the frozen food section at the grocery store was empty, but there was an excess of produce available,” said Seixas. “People are panicking, but they can buy fresh produce and learn how to make it shelf stable for a long time. It’s healthier, it’s cheaper, and it’ll last just as long.”
This sparked the idea for weekly “cooking tips.” Not only are these tips extremely relevant due to the need for sustainable food, but the garden the culinary team has developed provides the perfect examples with local vegetables, herbs, and fruits.
A recent cooking tip write-up highlighted basil, one of the abundant herbs in the garden. The culinary team laid out the process for harvesting, drying, and freezing the basil as well as a recipe for Caprese Bites.
Other herbs in the garden include rosemary, parsley, and cilantro. The team has also planned for the future, planting asparagus, which will be ready to harvest in three years, and pumpkins are on the horizon for the fall harvest. There is also a wealth of raspberries and blueberries that the team is excited to utilize.
Gardening is a key aspect in the culinary program. It is a platform to teach about the importance of good soil, the process of growing a variety of items that are taken for granted in the kitchen, and understanding what real, local produce is all about. It is an opportunity for students to literally learn from the ground up.
The garden is also a major facet of what the culinary team is looking forward to when they are able to resume in-person lessons and begin to train adults who reside at family homeless shelters with marketable skills in the food and hospitality industry.
“If we make a pesto, we can use basil from the garden. The idea is to have the students harvest it,” said Seixas. “If we want to make a jam, we’ll have the students picking the raspberries and blueberries as much as possible.”
On top of the gardening, the culinary program focuses on baking, pastry and bread making, savory cooking, and will also include barista training. Stay tuned for more information about the debut training schedule or reach out to Culinary@hfhnyc.org for more information.