Cooking With Curiosity: Creating Academic Engagement Through Food

How one Rich’s chef uses his culinary expertise to enhance the educational experience

The kitchen can be a formative place for young learners. Perhaps no one knows that better than Alice Waters, the world-renowned chef behind the Edible Schoolyard Project.   

Founded in 1995, the Edible Schoolyard Project aims to deepen the relationship between children and the food they eat, and has become a blueprint for creating educational pathways that engage students from the garden to the kitchen. This past summer, Rich Products’ Chef Jake Brach brought the Edible Schoolyard Project curriculum to Say Yes Buffalo students at the Belle Center through his 10-week course “Cooking with Curiosity.” The course continued the Belle Center’s tradition of providing empowering programs to residents of Buffalo’s West Side for more than 20 years. 

Under Chef Jake’s instruction, students learned the basic principles of cooking and baking in a way that was not only fun but also applicable to their daily lives. From using math to perform measurements to sampling culturally relevant and inclusive foods, Chef Jake challenged students in a fun and meaningful way.

“Cooking With Curiosity is modeled after the Edible Schoolyard Program,” said Brach. ”We connected STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) learning principles to food and cooking through a series of classes that explored things like different culinary techniques, measurements, recipes, the transfer of heat to food, and the elements that create flavor.” 

Classes were a combination of demonstrations, discussions, and tastings. Students also had the opportunity to practice creative arts and hone their writing skills as they recorded their observations on fruits, vegetables, flavors, and more. Beyond just building common core skills, several of the classes focused on expanding the children’s palates and horizons—having them learn about ethnic foods and traditions by preparing specific dishes and discussing the customs associated with them.

“We loved having Chef Jake come in and teach classes. More importantly, so did our youth! I can’t say that they loved every taste he offered them, as the kids gave some classic expressions when tasting bitter foods. But, his teachings left us with several foodies and maybe even some future chefs! ”
—Lucy A. Candelario, Executive Director of The Belle Center.