Brett is a professional chef with an impressive resume who happens to love working with kids. Kids love working with her, too. Her house is located right on the other side of woods from the Macomber Center. So, if they want to, the kids here can walk out our back door, through the forest, and wind up in Brett’s back yard. There, you’ll find a vegetable and herb garden and beautiful little fountain with goldfish and frogs living it.
This is where last week’s cooking class started. Brett and the kids began by picking basil, chives, and fennel for the pho (pronounced like “foot” without the T) they were about to cook. Pho is a Vietnamese noodle soup with vegetables, rice noodles, and meat, in this case, chicken. Some of the kids had dietary restrictions and others had strong aversions to certain foods, which meant that Brett had to coordinate multiple, customized variations of the dish. Everything was done from scratch. Three different broths were prepared: one with everything, one vegan, and one without mushrooms. Beyond that, each cook had total freedom to individualize his or her own dish. The kids were encouraged to experiment, keep notes, and write their own recipe at the end.
Brett runs a tight operation. She began by talking about the rules of the kitchen: order, efficiency, and cleanliness. Making everything absolutely clear allowed each kid to have a lot of freedom. This was not like some cooking classes, where each kid is given a task and the adult puts it all together. This was really an opportunity for kids who are serious about wanting to learn how to cook to be given real autonomy and responsibility, with a great chef on hand to answer any questions. Some of the things that they really enjoyed, aside from getting to cook in such a nice kitchen with everything one could possibly need, were learning how to take a whole chicken apart, how to make a complex broth, and how to sharpen knives.
Most of all, the kids appreciated that Brett is a warm, friendly person who is generous with her knowledge and fun to work with. At the end, they enjoyed their pho together at Brett’s table before returning to the Center.