Chef Christina teaches tarts to kids

A chilly November Monday outside, but a warm and toasty classroom inside at the public school set the stage for chef Christina Orchid to teach Mandy Randolph’s Farm to Classroom kids how to make pumpkin tarts from scratch.

The pumpkins were locally grown by Rhonda Barbieri at La Campesina Project. Each child received a pumpkin as a prize after completing “The Pumpkin Run” sponsored every year by PE teacher Dan Drake. Many of the students opted to use their pumpkin to cook with rather than the more common practice of carving and decorating.

Orchid, with the help of an overhead mirror in the old Home Economics room behind the cafeteria, taught the kids about the spices used, “which were the same spices Columbus was seeking when he discovered America.”

“A great chef is not one that never makes mistakes, but rather one that knows how to fix the mistakes they have made” she also said.

Orchid showed them how to work the dough and blend the filling. Then they went over to a table where each actually rolled out the dough, molded it into tart molds then filled them with the creamy pumpkin filling, which the kids helped prepare earlier.

Every child was totally involved in the experience and wanting to help do everything – even pick the seeds out of the pumpkin meat for roasting later. The highlight and ultimate prize was being able to enjoy what they made.

“Farm to Classroom” works closely with the “Farm to Cafeteria” program to introduce more healthy, locally grown foods into the school cafeteria menus for kids to eat. Each grade, kindergarten through 4th, has a class once a week with Miss Mandy, teaching garden, nutrition, sustainability, and kitchen concepts.

“Unless the kids have a connection to food they’re not likely to eat it,” Randolph says. Previous volunteers who have shared their love of food and cooking with Randolph’s kids included Zach Holley, who prepared Apple Fennel Bisque with the students, and Vicki Bartram, who shared her famous applesauce recipe. Orchid was her first local professional chef volunteer.

Thanks to Orchid and Randolph, there will be a lot more kids eating pumpkin pie this Thanksgiving.