Today, we welcomed Chef Jose Garces to camp.
He conducted the first part of a three-day “Chef Experience” for some of our CITs and Sycamore campers.
We’ve been planning this for some time as a trial, with support from Ballard Brands (owned by long-time Rockmonters!) to see whether older campers might enjoy a Grilling Skill.
All indications so far point to…YES!
Those of you who are Food Network addicts like me will remember Chef Garces from his long tenure as an Iron Chef.
He told me he was in over 30 challenges on the show. He has emerged as one of the nation’s leading chefs; operating over a dozen restaurants, a thriving event/catering division and non-profit organization as well as a 40-acre organic farm in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.
Chef Garces is also the author of two cookbooks, The Latin Road Home and Latin Evolution. You can read more about him here: http://garcesgroup.com/chef-garces
One thing was evident from the start: Chef is a teacher.
The morning started with basic knife skills, Chef moving from table to table to ensure knuckles were firm against the blade. Sanitation instructions followed. Expectations were set high:
“Today, you’re a chef too.”
Rick Rody, who serves as director of operations for Ballard Brands and helped organize, locally source and sous chef the program, summed it up well:
“Today was especially amazing because Chef Garces didn’t just talk about the food and his recipes. He went station to station to personally work with each participant on how to build their recipes. Today, they worked and made food with a renowned chef — something they’ll never forget!”
Each pair of participants shared a work table and blender, and each had their own knives and other accouterments.
The bulk of today’s work was butchery and various meats, ending with marinades to prepare the meats for the next two days.
Tomorrow’s curriculum is sauces and rubs, and preparing side dishes. Thursday is the day when participants learn to grill — and, of course, enjoy the results!
Another highlight today was Chef Garces’ visit to the Rockmont Farm.
Jon McNair, the farm manager and homesteading skill head, gave the Chef a tour of the farm and the various vegetables that will be harvested by campers for Thursday’s side dishes.
He was treated to a taste of the pico de gallo that our campers made with ingredients they had helped grow.
As I reflect on the day, I’m reminded again of how many ways our mission of growth is manifested.
We strive every day to provide opportunities for our campers to grow in self-confidence, independence, leadership ability and Christian character.
Today was a shining example.
At least one of Chef Garces’ participants this week will return home and offer to take over grilling responsibilities for his family.
On Thursday, they’ll enjoy the produce that campers helped grow and harvest in homesteading.
They will all appreciate the hard work and dedication it takes to become an Iron Chef, and, hopefully, embrace and expand their own aspirations.
That’s a great day!