Toronto Kids Cook To Care
As part of an under-the-radar volunteer program called Kids Cook To Care, this past Saturday 17 kids got down and dirty as they cooked for over 100 Torontonians in need. They washed, diced, measured and grilled under the direction of Cava's Chef Chris McDonald in the kitchen facilities of St. Olave's Church, with the results being a tasty and conscientious paella.
The idea for Kids Cook to Care came to founders Julie Levin and Jill Lewis, both mothers themselves, as way to create volunteer opportunities for their own children. And since I am essentially an over-sized kid myself, I decided to check the event out.
When I got there the hall was a fury of activity, with all the aspiring chefs (ranging from about 6-16 years old) broken out into prep stations - veg cutting, mussel shucking, chorizo grilling, chicken roasting, hot chocolate making.
Slowly but surely under the patient guidance of the head chef, the meal came together over the next two hours. Chef Chris McDonald would give out interesting little tidbits throughout the process about Spanish cuisine, why ingredients like saffron (hand picked stigma from the crocus flower) are so expensive, and why he likes to use organic ingredients when he can.
Chris and the parents did a lot of the heavy lifting and finesse work, but the kids had a pretty hands-on experience. They got to handle knives, play with seafood, learn how to use a digital scale, grill chorizo on the BBQ, and portion out ingredients. With Chris running things, the chefs-to-be got a pretty good sense as to the flow and timing of cooking in a professional kitchen.
Past Kids Cook to Care events have paired volunteers up with chefs David Lee of Nota Bene, Anthony Rose of The Drake, P.K. Ahluwalia of Dhaba Restaurant, and Ezra Title of Chezvous Dining to cook Chinese, Mexican, Indian, and French inspired meals.
The last two events have happened at St. Olave's, which has kitchen facilities and ample space. But organizers Jill and Julie like to be in a space where the kids can both cook and serve the food, to create a more complete sense of community. So they are always on the hunt for soup kitchens that would be willing to have the kids come in to help.
Saturday's Spanish inspired paella was made using organic and/or local ingredients donated by Cava Restaurant and Cumbrae's butchershop including organic chicken, Cava's house-made organic Chorizo sausages, PEI mussels and organic Bomba rice.
Then the food was packed into individual portions and loaded into a van. The mobile kitchen set up shop at Spadina and College and volunteers with the Hunger Patrol gave out the food. Any leftovers were brought to the Strachan House shelter nearby.
From what I could see, Kids Cook to Care is a a different way for kids to get out there and do some volunteer work. Getting local kids together with local chefs to feed those in need is definitely a fun way to help the community at large.
Interested in volunteering with Kids Cook to Care? You can contact Jill or Julie at kidscooktocare[[at]]hotmail[[dot]]com.
Photos by the author.
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