Friday, 5 February 2016

Make Me Cookies ... Again!

Every semester starts the same way ... after a brief introduction, Chef organizes everyone in some random way (today it was by shoe-size) and gives the order; "Make Me Cookies"! A recipe out of a cookbook from 1945 (seriously) is used. It is a wonderful recipe.

The results this semester (like most semesters) were ... um ... mixed. Some were inedible, some perfect, and one group had theirs all flow into one enormous lava-like mess.

Every week has one student designated to be the Sous-Chef, and develop leadership and observational skills.
This first week it is Noah, and he is doing an excellent job. (Noah is the tallest in the photo, assisting on the hot line.)

Every group has the same challenge ... work together for the first time, try to follow a recipe they have never seen, make a product thay have only the vaguest idea of and learn to communicate effectively with each other while they try to read for content, implication and sequence. This is a crash-course in cooperation, and the groups worked very well. Here are a few shots:

Aaaaand ... the process:

Here we are ... the very first products. Mostly edible.

Stay tuned for more next week!

Monday, 1 February 2016

Many Abilities = No Disabilities = Kitchen Fun, and Lunch (and cookies)

Each one of us, dear reader(s), sees the world through our own glasses ... our peculiar perspective. We interpret what is around us, and the people we see (or, sometimes, not see). Part of everyone's growth in Monarch Park Collegiate is the complete inclusion of every student into every opportunity, as best fits their abilities, interests and needs.

The person behind much of this inclusion is Monarch Park's wonderful Jay Arrington. He encourages, cajoles, pushes, demands, explains, organizes, arranges and includes everyone in his expansive and generous view of the world. The talented cadre of teaching assistants, personal support workers and programming assistants who make up his sub-set of staff work every single day to ensure that no kid is left out.


Well, sometimes life gets in the way of an outrageous idea. Sometimes there just is no time in the school daily calendar to go and play in the kitchen. For all those students whose schedules were just too darn busy throughout the rest of the semester, today was their special day. Jay said YES, and so it was.
YOUR TIME HAS COME! thundered Chef at 10 after 9 in the morning to a group of slightly startled students. NOW it is UP TO YOU!! Go and get your hands clean and then come and see me here in the centre of the kitchen. Today you will make your own lunch, and it will not be a wretched sandwich. NO! Today you will make your own spanakopita and tzatziki for lunch, and then cookies to take home. You will use all your talents and you will rely on each other. Now GO and wash those paws!
Everyone scurried ... some people could reach into the sink, some needed help with a wash-cloth and soap. Mr Arrington borrowed a hideous blue T-shirt from chef's stash of really ugly shirts so he could wash dishes. Jenn and Lorna (who have been working in the kitchen all semester with particular students) helped the rest of the support staff figure out what was going on. Jenn made Chef more espresso. And more again. This was going to get fairly manic, fairly quickly.

There was a quick demo on how to treat phylo pastry ... how to hold it, and investigate its fragility.
Everyone had a chance to just eat some raw dough (yuck!), and understand how the pastry brushed with butter would make a strong, pliable pillow.

Jackson Brabander, a Culinary Arts program graduate, had come into the school to assist Chef and the students for the day (Thank You, Jackson!!), and he managed to work with Jenn and Lorna to keep Chef organized and supplied with equipment.
He also put away a huge pile of washed dishes, and generally keep the place able to rock along fast and furiously.

Carry the pastry on the back of your hands!

Brush out to the edges, not across and edge, with the butter!

Crumble the feta cheese finely!

Squeeze the living daylights out of that spinach!

Zest those lemons!

Fold those spanakopita pillows tight!

There is so much to do ... so much that everyone had a chance to get involved. We had four slightly-competitive teams form up. The people who can reach the counters and trays get to brush the pastry. The ones who can squeeze out towels full of gooey spinach wring their hardest. Everyone gets involved in learning the proper words for movements, for knives, for asking for help usefully, for memorizing what comes from where in the pantries and chillers.
Everyone learns how useful and carefully-written a professional recipe is. The learning and movement became a wheel-chair ballet, a happy / crazy / joyful work of living art...which was edible!

Somehow Jackson had time to make some pizzas in all this chaos. And some hummus (which was later forgot in the fridge ... that was Chef's fault). AND Jackson also made time to re-decorate the cold pantry as well (just to get it done, you know ... ). Jackson is a real hero today!

Finally ... time to stop for lunch. And slightly collapse!

We had a few leftover spanakopita pillows and tzatziki, and offered them to some rather hungry Gr 12 science students who were studying for their very last exam. They all came as a group to thank the students for their talent and great generosity. Bravo, everyone!

In the afternoon we started with a "Dirty Dishes Dance" for 10 frantic, loud and crazy minutes. Every single thing got cleaned and put away in less than 10 minutes flat. Impressive? You bet!

The afternoon was just for making cookies to take home. Jackson did the mis-en-place for everyone, and two teams got together. Wets were prepared, drys were measured. A lesson in particular use of a micro-wave to melt butter for baking (DON'T DO IT!!!) was shared by Chef. Wooden spoons were wielded, and then the ball-rollers got into business.

Every single cookie came out perfectly. Every single one. Wow!! No splattered cookies, no melted messes.

And the cookies were bagged (with great help from Shelley) and every student got a bag of cookies to take home (or gnaw on in the bus on the way!). Chef is convinced that not a single cookie will actually roll into anyone's house or apartment today, but that does not matter in the great scheme of things.

And in perfect time everything was done. The kitchen was spotless, and knives were all put away, the equipment sparkled, Josh did a last spray-and-wash dance around the steel counter-tops and Mr Wyse took the last bag of laundry up the stairs.

Thanks, everyone, for coming to the kitchen to play. Thanks particularly to Jackson, Lorna, Jenn, Jay and the DD/PH staff ... you made magic happen, and that is truly a beautiful and loving thing.

Here ... more shots of a Happy Day.