Teachers, Principals & Chefs Reflect on the Success of Chef in the Classroom Day

December 29, 2010

Chefs 
Students get ready for a healthy cooking demonstration at Ruiz School with Chef Alex Cheswick of May Street Market.

By Lindsay Muscato, Writer/Communications Specialist

The survey results are in! This fall, Chef in the Classroom Day linked more than 60 chefs with schools around the city in response to Michelle Obama's Chefs Move to Schools national call to action. In Chicago, more than 4,000 students experienced a fun day of nutrition lessons, veggie tastings and tales from the kitchen. (Here's our recap — including photos and video!)

While the core nutrition lessons were universal, each chef's unique presentation shaped the day. Students donned chefs' hats, took their first bites of broccoli, learned to arrange a plate like a pro, discovered the history of apples and more. We surveyed teachers, principals and chefs for their feedback, and we're pleased to announce that chefs served up a winning day.

Classroom teachers really saw the impact of the students' reactions to the interactive lessons — and 100 percent of respondents said they'd participate again. Their biggest surprise? Veggies took the cake. Teachers said:

“The best part was watching how excited the students got to try the food. I was surprised at how many ate most of the food even after saying they didn't like vegetables, etc. It was a great experience!”

“Many of them were surprised at how good the food was and tried a ton of new foods they hadn't eaten before. Excellent experience.”

“Very informative and relevant to our students' needs for knowing and understanding about nutrition and heath.”

Principals and administrators noted the positive connections building between chefs, HSC, CPS and schools and also gave kudos for the smiles they saw.

When asked what was most beneficial, principals said:

“The looks of curiosity, enthusiam, and pride of our third graders as they learned, participated, and smiled through the entire demonstration.”

“The children were electrified by the chef. It was a great class and exciting too.”

“The kids really understood why it's important to have vegetables as part of their meals.”

Many said they'd formed longer-lasting connections with the chef who visited, and plans are in the works for projects like workshops with parents, a career day appearance and more ongoing collaboration.

Participating chefs gained an insider view of classroom life and learned just how excited kids can be about veggies. When asked about benefits, challenges, surprises, and their motivation for participating, chefs said:

“The best part was interacting with the students. It was so much fun walking into the classrooms to see the students all donning toques [chef's hats] almost taller than them!”

“The best part was when the students (third grade and kindergarten) were able to identify the vegetables; and then they ate them with such pride. … What surprised me the most was that all the children in both grade levels loved the garnishes. They loved looking at them and they loved eating them as well.”

“I love the idea of heathy food choices for the students in all schools. I love to play with food. … I had a blast, and I cannot wait to participate again someday.”

Chef in the Classroom Day was part of the Go for the Gold Campaign, Chicago's response to First Lady Michelle Obama's initiative to reduce childhood obesity, Let's Move. HSC thanks all of the participants for their dedication to spreading fun, engaging nutrition education and a encouraging a lifelong love of healthy eating.