Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Northview Heights Secondary School’s Culinary Prog. (Hospitality & Tourism) with Altruistic Chef-Teacher Konstantakou...

I am revving up for Food Revolution Day May 15th, a day about bringing awareness to the real food cause, inspiring people to get back in the kitchens to cook, and having some real food discussions and fun! My mission this year is to get as many schools to participate as possible and get people to sign our petition to bring food education back into the school curriculum. 

I have been eyeing Northview Heights Secondary School for a long time since I saw that they ran a full-fledged culinary department when the twins were there in the fall for weekend gymnastics. I just knew when Food Rev Day came around that I would definitely reach out to them to participate. I called the head of the department, Chef Dimitra Konstantakou, and was met with enthusiasm and excitement! In fact, how Chef Konstantakou runs the culinary program, meeting curriculum expectations, is the poster school for everything Food Revolution stands for!! Their 176 enrolled grades 10 to 12 students along with three teachers, seven program assistants and student volunteers cook everything from scratch every day to make the lunch meals served in the school cafeteria — to 1500 students! And when I mean scratch-cooking, it's everything from fresh bread from the baking class and fresh pasta, down to stocks and sauces like tomato, veloute, and condiments like mayonnaise, hummus and ketchup (Jamie Oliver's recipe). She organizes field trips for students to see what other food professionals are doing and invites colleges, well-known chefs and other food educators to present at the school and to cook together. This gives the students a wide scope of what they can do with food as a career choice and to take pride in their cooking skills. She organizes activities often with Northview’s family of schools, like Wilmington and CH Best Public Schools, where the grade 3s and 4s come and participate in hands-on cooking,  baking activities and gardening with the welcoming culinary students.

Northview partners with Community Hub, their adjacent community centre, to grow food in their shared community garden managed by students and volunteers. And they partner with North York Harvest Food Bank located in the school as a dignified space for food assistance.  Specialist High Skills Major students worked with public health nurses to develop a plan (based on the strategies of innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship) to inform community members of Toronto Food Truck, which delivers fresh produce. 

As I happily learned, Chef Konstantakou is a Jamie Oliver advocate. Last year, she attracted the attention of the London team with her cooking club and was invited as a guest blogger. Colleagues in the baking class bake up every morning Oliver's oatmeal cookie recipe tweaked into breakfast bars (their best seller by the way) and everyone gets inspiration from Jamie Oliver’s recipes all the time, which she uses and shares on her frequently updated Flipped Classroom blog showcasing her students talents.

Grade 10 students making potato croquettes.

Credit: Chef K's Culinary Student Blog  March 5, 2015

Grade 12 students filleting red snappers.

Credit: Chef K's Culinary Student Blog  March 31, 2015

"Recipe Share" Cooking Class

Credit: Chef K's Culinary Student Blog March 30, 2014

I had the pleasure of spending the morning at the school today meeting the great staff running the department. This wonderful culinary program is run from the heart of a truly altruistic, empathetic and innovative food educator Chef K!

UPDATE: It is confirmed- the entire school body of 1500 students will be making Jamie's champion Squash-It Sandwich on Food Rev day! Read on for more.

With Chef Konstantakou in Northview's school cafeteria.

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