‘The Reason Chefs Become Chefs’: Q+A with David Blackmon

September 29, 2014

Inspiration as our event approaches

Cooking up Change’s Chicago event is just around the corner! In preparation, we’re speaking with some of the invaluable leaders who make this program happen every year. Today, we’re featuring David Blackmon, Program Manager, CTE Culinary Arts and Agricultural Science Programs, Chicago Public Schools (CPS). In his role, David ensures that culinary arts students are given every opportunity to succeed in Cooking up Change and, more broadly, in life. His support makes it possible for Healthy Schools Campaign to partner with CPS on Cooking up Change.

1) Why is Cooking up Change important, especially this year?

Cooking up Change is important because our students get to play a role in being a voice for what they like to eat. They show it’s possible to produce something that’s not only good for you, it’s also tasty to the palates of today’s youth.

2) Why do you support Cooking up Change?

We have a nutrition component to our culinary program at CPS. This is a really good exercise about food and what food can do for the body.

3) How has being involved with Cooking up Change impacted your role at CPS?

Students who are trained to become chefs and culinary leaders of tomorrow are getting an idea of what professionals are doing today. They can see what impact they can make.

4) What do you love about Cooking up Change?

I don’t really want to know what each of my teams are making, so to me Cooking up Change is kind of a culinary Christmas. Every table is like opening up a new present, unwrapping each school and seeing what’s coming from their imagination.

5) How do Cooking up Change students inspire you?

I’ve been inspired when I see some of my students making a conscious change to see food as a form of fuel. A lot of my students are starting to see, “I don’t have to celebrate with food.” It doesn’t have to be, “When I’m happy I eat, and when I’m sad I eat.” They are seeing what Cooking up Change is all about, for themselves and for their families.

6) Why should students have a voice in school lunch?

Students are the end consumers. Adults for all these years have dictated that kids like pizza puffs and nachos and burgers. …An event like Cooking up Change gives students a voice to say, “We like this.” This exercise has produced hundreds of recipes that my teachers feel should be in our school cafeterias. And we should see more lunches, not just the winning lunch [added to the menu]. It should be the dish from this city or that city. Kids always want [the winning Cooking up Change meal] when that dish is served citywide.

The reason chefs become chefs is that there’s nothing greater than your dish being enjoyed by thousands. And Cooking up Change winners are seeing it enjoyed by hundreds of thousands. Not just thousands. Hundreds of thousands are consuming it all in one swoop. And it should be done more.

7) Cooking up Change is…

Engaging, educating, empowering. It’s engaging kids to think about how school lunches are created and sold, and it’s educating and empowering them to go forward and make change.

Thank you, David, for sharing your thoughts with us!

Did you know that you can meet Chicago’s student chefs and be part of the action at Cooking up Change Chicago on Thursday, October 30? Click here to purchase tickets or to make a donation.