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Sunday, 17 November 2013

The Sacredness of Cooking

The Milton Conquest Boys Club recently took cooking one step further when a group of boys completed a three week advanced cooking class held at the the Longos Loft in Milton, Ontario. Under the supervision of Marvin Duarte, the club president, and the professional expertise of Chef Mike Killop, the boys were shown how to create some advanced culinary gems, both sweet and savoury, and very attractive to boot.

They learned how to make short pastry, and how to use a rolling pin for more than a weapon or plaything. They pounded chicken breasts with a mallet on the way to concocting a delicious chicken parmesan, and cooked up a wonderful tomato mushroom risotto from scratch.

But aside from learning how to prepare and cook, the boys were shown how to avoid waste. For example, they used left over dough to make pinwheel cookies, and they managed to reincorporate leftover tomato sauce into a tomato vinaigrette. They also placed all the chicken bones, and pieces of vegetables into a large pot and cooked up a wonderful chicken broth so that all the boys could take a container home with them. Chef Mike told the boys that it was not good enough to say, “I don't eat this,” and that it is very important to try things out, and that this too could avoid waste in the long run because fussy eating often leads to more discarded food.

And they also learned how to share, because all the prepared food was served up for lunch at the end of the class. For graduation day, the boys got to invite their parents to lunch, and as Chef Mike told them, this was a great opportunity to say thank you to them, and show appreciation for all the cooking they do at home.

And as their graduation certificate certifies, each boy who completed the Family Culinary Community program learned “the importance of food in that it provides nourishment, strength, and a way to connect to one another.”

For the final class, Chef Mike cranked up the work load and the concentration factor and asked the boys to work by a time line, as they would in a real restaurant kitchen. In other words, they were asked to be more realistic because of the pressure facing them, since their hungry guests would soon be arriving for lunch. This was an essential lesson for the boys because anyone who has cooked for a group of people knows that it is very important to know how to deal with the anxiety which results from the pressure of cooking to a schedule.

However, this was far from a “Hell's Kitchen” atmosphere. Chef Mike was a living example of the virtue of patience, always maintaining his composure in front of his apprentice chefs who varied in age from 8 to 15.

But above all else, this advanced cooking class showed the boys that food is sacred, that cooking is a privilege, and that the kitchen is a very special place indeed, because it is the working area which can feed the poor and the hungry.

As Saint Basil the Great said in the 4th century, the bread which we all possess belongs to the hungry. That indeed emphasizes the sacredness of cooking, and the need to avoid waste and all forms of greed.