Mel Somerset has taken on the challenging role of Kitchen Co-ordinator, supporting Susie Ormonde (Kitchen Garden Co-ordinator) and the rest of the Kitchen Garden Team, leading students in fortnightly cooking sessions in our brand new kitchen.
I peeked my head in on Thursday to meet Mel and find out how her first day of cooking with students had gone. I found her busily chopping and arranging herbs on the big wooden kitchen table which serves as a demonstration table then a communal eating table where all the cooks proudly display their finished meals before tucking in.
Looking around the kitchen I was impressed with the light-filled space, accented with bold colour and bright red cooking appliances which were dotted around the five cooking stations. Tall racks along the wall hold pots and pans and crockery while the space has been skilfully extended with an attached walk-in pantry. Walking into this room felt like being in the “Masterchef pantry” with its interesting collection of ingredients and I’m sure the Year 4/5 students who cook in here feel like they’re living the Junior Masterchef dream too.
Interviewing Mel I was struck by her passion for her role, which seems to be simply an extension of her personal commitment to seasonal living in her own home. She spoke enthusiastically about her desire to teach students “how to distinguish seasonal produce in order to make them better consumers. In the old days, children would have seen Nanna preserving, cooking and baking, but in today’s world they don’t seem to get that any more. “
Mel explained how students will be able to see the full process: cooking with fresh and seasonal ingredients they have grown themselves from seed and picked fresh from the kitchen garden to put into their meal or by using home preserves from their own kitchen, like sundried tomatoes or grilled capsicum.
“In an ideal world this is how everyone should live and if we can give kids the knowledge they need, this might help them to take some of the load off their parents too.”
When students cook in the kitchen they work in small groups to prepare their meals, using seasonal produce (much of which they pop out into the kitchen garden to pick). They then set the tables for communal eating, sharing the meals they have prepared. Mel said she had noticed a real sense of pride in the students as they dressed the tables, setting out the knives and forks, a napkin and glass of water for each person. After the meal, where good social skills are promoted, the students share the responsibility of washing up. Mel was impressed with the number of boys and girls who had willingly volunteered their help.
When asked to sum up how she felt after the first day of students’ cooking, she laughed and said,
“This job’s like winning lotto. It was amazing! They thoroughly enjoyed it and had a good time. It was SO much fun for both them and me!”
Her passion for ‘seasonal living’ is infectious and Year 4/5 students are going to love their sessions in the kitchen, growing then picking seasonal produce, knowing that the delicious meals they prepare are part of the seed to table ethos this wonderful program provides.
Written, photos and posted by Dawn Veary