Schenectady County

A taste of college

“Cheese, rice, beans, roll.”

“Cheese, rice, beans, roll.”

That is the proper way to make a burrito, as 16 Schenectady High School ninth-graders learned from Schenectady County Community College culinary students and staff as part of a lesson dubbed Kids in the Kitchen.

“We don’t need a lot,” said Gerard Moser, an adjunct faculty member in the college’s Hotel, Culinary Arts and Tourism Department, regarding the fillings. “If you put too much in you won’t be able to roll it.”

Students helped prepare a four-course meal for their parents featuring freshly made garden salsa with corn tortilla chips, spinach salad with a raspberry vinaigrette dressing, chicken or vegetarian burritos and strawberry shortcake.

The students are all members of the Smart Scholars program, which allows them to take classes at SCCC during their junior and senior years, earning college and high school credit simultaneously. They either expressed interest in learning more about cooking or were selected by program officials to attend the session.

The Kids in the Kitchen program is part of an effort by the Junior League of Schenectady and Saratoga counties to reduce childhood obesity. It was designed by the Association of Junior Leagues International.

Junior League President Deneen Palmateer said the goal is to promote healthy meals and healthy eating. In the past, the group has worked with the Boys and Girls Club.

This year, they decided to team up with SCCC to help showcase the school’s culinary arts department and involve the Smart Scholars program.

“Introduce the kids to nutrition as a career. At the same time bring their families to learn about nutrition,” she said.

SCCC associate professor Kim Williams said the college has hosted other cooking training for adults but this was the first time for youngsters.

The program aims to teach students culinary skills as well as teaching them to make nutritious meals using local ingredients.

“Buying local doesn’t always mean more expensive,” Williams said.

tasks split up

The students were divided up into different stations to prepare different parts of the meal, each group aided by an SCCC student or faculty member.

SCCC student Alex Kalkbrenner was showing kids how to deep fry tortilla chips. First, he had to carefully pull apart the chips. “You want to do this because otherwise it will stick together in one big one big ball of tortilla,” he said.

Then he dropped them in the frying oil and carefully stirred it with a ladle.

“That’s all there is to it. By now, they’re all crunchy,” Kalkbrenner said. “About a minute after they’re done. You can eat it.”

Kalkbrenner of Burnt Hills said he was more than happy to volunteer his time when he heard high school students were interested in learning more about cooking.

The kids also prepared homemade salsa, a surprisingly simple process involving some cut tomatoes, onions and green peppers.

“You just put it all together and stir it up a little bit,” said 14-year-old Justin Pokhai. “It’s cheap and easy and you don’t have to worry about finding everything because it’s in your local grocery store.”

Pokhai signed up for the session to learn about cooking, although he does not intend to pursue it as a career. He is more interested in automotive technology.

SCCC student Joel Kessler, who is graduating from the culinary program in May, said he enjoyed helping the youths.

“Get them knowledgeable about how fun cooking can be,” he said.

Students also found that food preparation was easier they thought. For many, it was there first chance.

“I do have interest in cooking, I never really took the time to learn,” said 15-year-old Felicia Deonarain.

Aaliyah Outlaw, 14, said she is happy to be part of Smart Scholars. “I like the opportunity that we can earn college credits in high school so we’re a step ahead.”

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