The Food Revolution Pittsburgh Cooking Club: Year One

The Food Revolution Pittsburgh Cooking Club: Year One

Fri 06 Dec 2013

Story by Bobby Fry and Alaina Webber

For the Kids: A Year in Review for the Food Revolution Pittsburgh Cooking Club

The Challenge

After Jamie Oliver posed a one-year challenge to Pittsburgh to create a healthier city, the Food Revolution Pittsburgh Cooking Club began to take shape. We raised money, showed up each week to teach kids how to cook, and showcased what our student chefs learned by organizing a giant community party on Food Revolution Day 2013. The Food Revolution Pittsburgh team facilitated those events with the help of local partnerships, but the real story in Pittsburgh is about the kids.

In February 2013, when twenty high school students walked into an otherwise abandoned cooking room after school at the Barack Obama Academy of International Studies in Pittsburgh’s East Liberty neighborhood, they came with a desire to learn about food. Our goal was to meet that desire with proper kitchen tools, access to quality ingredients and new experiences with cooking and dining, in hopes that they would begin to take ownership of their relationship with food.

Putting their Skills to Work

Learning how to hold a knife properly, quarter a potato, make fresh juice, wash dishes, pronounce the word ‘arugula,’ roll sushi, and plate a dish—the kids honed their kitchen skills and deduced a philosophy of food with each new task, ingredient or dish they’d never tried before. After twenty weeks, they stood alongside professional local chefs, put their skills to work and served a reinvented school lunch menu to over 1,800 of their classmates, neighbors and family members for Food Revolution Day.

Proving that a desire to try new things should never be underestimated, over $25,000 has now made its way to support the expansion of the cooking club into a partnership with Pittsburgh Public School administrators, and enabling Food Revolution Pittsburgh Fancy Water hydration stations to launch in 14 schools in just 2 months since late August 2013.

The Power of Food Education

From day one of cooking club to today—Food Revolution Pittsburgh is for, by and about the kids. It’s their story, as they recognize the power of educating themselves and begin to view eating as more than solely an act of consumption. We’ve seen a desire to try new things spark personal satisfaction, collective achievement and economic opportunities. Telling anyone and everyone about the kids’ attitudes and efforts is our role. Doing the work to make sure this program continues and expands is our joy.

Below is a timeline outlining our first year of initiatives, or you can check out the image here. Stay tuned for more from the Food Revolution Team on initiatives happening in the Steel City. As they say in Pittsburgh, HERE WE GO!

October 4-6, 2013
Jamie Oliver visits Pittsburgh for One Young World 2013, meeting with seven organizational thought leaders including Bar Marco’s Bobby Fry.

January 2013
Thanks to One Young World reporter Latianna, Food Revolution meets with Mr. Reid’s civics class to brainstorm and plan.

February 10 – May 5, 2013
Partnering with the Youth Media Advocacy Program (YMAP), Food Revolution visits Brashear every Wednesday to make breakfast and develop The Salad Bar Project video campaign.

February 25, 2013
Bar Marco hosts No Menu Monday fundraiser with Springboard Kitchens.

February 29, 2013
Food Revolution Cooking Club begins and meets every Tuesday from 2:20-4:30 for 20 weeks. Every student chef receives a knife, steel, cutting board, and cookbook of their choice.

February 17, 2013
Brandon Baltzley’s final CRUX dinner, The Last Supper, brings together eleven of Pittsburgh’s top chefs to Bar Marco for an 11-course meal that raised over $9,000.

April-May 2013
A crowd-funding viral video campaign produced by the University of Pittsburgh Katz Graduate School of Business with Dr. Andrew Stephen raises $3,000 and gains over 65,000 hits on YouTube.

April 8, 2013
Bar Marco hosts second No Menu Monday fundraiser with Brazen Kitchen.

May 8, 2013
Bar Marco chefs participate in a cafeteria takeover at Brashear High School, preparing fresh dressings and sauces from scratch and “fancy water” for all lunch periods.

May 17, 2013
On May 17th, 2013 the Food Revolution Cooking Club student chefs celebrated Food Revolution Day by working alongside local chefs to prepare a reinvented school lunch menu for over 1500 people with a DJ, mural project and pick-up basketball tournament turning the athletics field into a community party. Farmers, health care representatives and nonprofit organizations in attendance began conversations with students and their families about food access and nutrition.

May 23, 2013
Bar Marco chefs and staff host cafeteria takeover at Obama Academy, serving an original recipe for chicken fajita wraps to the entire student body.

July 2, 2013
Food Revolution begins to consult and collaborate with Pittsburgh Public Schools food service directors and administration.

September-October 2013
Food Revolution Pittsburgh and Pittsburgh Public Schools Fancy Water hydration stations launch at 14 schools.

September 30, 2013
Bar Marco hosts third No Menu Monday fundraiser with Let’s Move Pittsburgh.

About the Authors: Recently named top 50 restaurants in the nation by Bon Appetite magazine, the Bar Marco team recognizes that the path to industry sustainability as a restaurant is through community involvement and empowerment. When not crafting cocktails and managing business strategy as founder and co-owner of Bar Marco and The Livermore, Bobby Fry is working hard to hydrate and feed the youths, all the while spitting out Twitter genius over at @BarMarcoPGH.

Keeping things looking pretty as Director of Communication and Design for Bar Marco and The Livermore, Alaina Webber can be found getting the job done, snapping photos, and tweeting with the best of ‘em at @AlainaWebber. Together, Bobby and Alaina oversee the Food Revolution Cooking Club and direct Food Revolution initiatives across the city. Believing that the best conversations happen over food and drink, the team takes every opportunity to build relationships and gain inspirations through sharing experiences around food.


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