The idea behind Oui, Chef came to me about a year ago while I was out on a run. I had recently read articles by both Alice Waters and Jamie Oliver about their work in trying to improve the school lunch programs here in the States, and in Jamie’s native England. I had also just been approached by a teacher from a local school who knew of my culinary training and wanted to talk to me about doing some cooking classes for his elementary students. It sounded like a fun opportunity, so I started to think about what I would want to convey to the kids about food and cooking in the relatively short time-span of a school-day class.
I knew for sure that I wanted it to be a hands-on lesson with the kids, for fear that a demonstration or straight lecture about food would likely render me the target of a pea-shooter attack….I needed the kids engaged and busy having fun. I was making good progress on plans for a number of sessions focused on cooking some Mexican dishes (the kids were studying Mexico and S. America at the time) when I started to think about how little time I actually spent teaching my own kids how to navigate their way through our own kitchen. Here I was, a well trained cook, spending a bunch of hours designing a cooking class curriculum (of sorts) for a local school, when I hadn’t taught my own kids, who I cooked for daily, how to make more than a top-notch PB&J. Such a bad boy.
I’m sorry to say that the teacher who had engaged me to teach his kids ended up leaving the school before we had a chance to finalize the program, but at that point the seeds of Oui, Chef had been sown, and I started spending much more time thinking about what it was that I wanted to teach MY kids about food, cooking, and how to feed themselves well in an environmentally responsible way. I started to wonder why, among all the things we work so hard to teach our kids, cooking isn’t even on most people’s radar screen. We spend countless hours helping them with homework, spend small fortunes for tutors and test prep classes, and give up nights and weekends shuttling our kids to extra-curricular gigs; all so that they can grow up to be happy, healthy, and well rounded individuals. We teach them to dress themselves, clean their rooms (still working on this one), wash behind their ears, and say no to drugs, but how many of us really take the time to teach our kids how to cook, and how to make responsible choices about what it is they put in their bodies? Now I’m not talking about “cooking” microwave popcorn or pre-packaged mac and cheese here, I know a boat load of kids that have microwave skills light years beyond mine. I’m talking about cooking real food, understanding where this food comes from, its effect on their health, and how the way it is grown and brought to market impacts our planet.
Oui, Chef now exists as an extension of my efforts to teach my kids a few things about cooking, and how their food choices over time effect not only their own health, but that of our local food communities and our planet at large. By sharing some of our cooking experiences, I hope to inspire other families to start spending more time together in the kitchen, passing on established familial food traditions, and starting some new ones. My desire in the end is not just to enhance my young sous chefs’ culinary skills and their level of environmental awareness, but to broaden their palettes as well.
I think it would be wonderful to eventually cook our way around the globe, sampling the signature dishes of as many of the world’s food cultures as we can manage. That said, I am very excited about the prospect of visitors to this blog exchanging early childhood food memories and recipes that they may have first learned from their parents. I look forward to many of these contributors pushing me to cook beyond my own culinary heritage (Italian), and training (French), so that I too can learn more about world cuisines that I love, and have always found intriguing.
So….welcome to Oui, Chef. Please let me know what you think of the site, the good, the bad, and the ugly. Let me know what features you find interesting and useful, and don’t hesitate to suggest additions or modifications that you think would make the site better. And by all means, please share your early experiences at cooking and pass along recipes that are your culinary cultural touchstones.
Click here About, Oui Chef to learn more about how this whole crazy thing is supposed to work.
Cheers! – Steve
Please check back soon for our first cooking post….. homemade PIZZA!