Remote Cooking Club at North-Grand High School
This summer at North-Grand High School, teachers Beth Barrow and Getsemani Nava partnered with CAPE teaching artist Betsy Zacsek and ACRE Resident Artist Sarita Hernandez to launch a virtual summer program for their students that would focus on cooking and community.
The following is a short essay from Beth Barrow about the origins of their Remote Cooking Club, which has since transitioned from a summer program to an after-school program for the 2020-2021 school year!
Remote Cooking Club Teaches Cooking with a Side of Critical Analysis
When teaching artist, Betsy Zacsek, conceived the idea of the “Free Snacks” cooking club, she was pretty sure that it had legs. Betsy had always been struck by just how food-motivated her students had been in other CAPE classes. Good snacks led to good attendance and good participation. The question was: how do we do a cooking club remotely? A cooking club would be much simpler if we were at school, where we had a professional kitchen. However, doing a remote cooking class made logistics tougher.
After a lot of research and some trial and error, here is our process. Our main touch points with the students are three nights on video meet, as well as a brief in-person interaction for grocery delivery. The classes last two hours and we’ve found that, even after the cooking is finished and the kitchen is cleaned, many of the kids still want to hang out online. To be clear, during the class, students simultaneously cook the same dish from their own kitchen…so that’s 20 teenagers frying an egg at once! Betsy leads the students through the recipe, demonstrating each step. The students are encouraged to work with their cameras on (some focus the camera on the food and others focus it on them). Ms. Nava translates the directions into Spanish and fields questions from chat. On Wednesdays, the students make a dessert and eat it while we talk about ingredients and spices. They don’t even know that it is a lesson. (All things are better when eating a dessert.)
“What do I do if my yolk breaks?” Gabrielle asks. Students run into all sorts of issues when they cook at home. Sometimes, they can’t find their ingredients and have to substitute. Other times, they don’t have the right pan or dish. And, occasionally, the kids just make mistakes. Inevitably, we find a work-around and the kids persevere. They feed their food to their families and often bring feedback to us on what they liked and what they would change. The entire time they cook, the students are evaluating and adjusting their process. After we cook, the students reflect on what they would do differently if they would cook that dish again. Often students offer suggestions for ingredients to include or omit. Betsy and Ms. Nava stress “making the recipe your own” and also make sure the students realize that it is part of the process to fail and retry.
And, while most important artifacts get eaten, students proudly provide photos of their finished dishes and answer three questions in Google Classroom after each video meet. Through the questions, students analyze their own progress and help guide future lessons. The club started out with 22 members and still has 17, despite strict attendance and participation criteria. And, while the kids are learning how to cook, the club teaches the students to experiment, troubleshoot, adjust, analyze, and (most importantly) persevere.
One of the many creations to come out of the 22 kitchens involved in the Remote Cooking Club was this cookbook. Check it out for some delicious inspiration!cape-2020-north-grand-recipe-book