Kid chefs design menus for execs

Group tenant youth and staff in a kitchen wearing aprons

A group photo of Home Run Scholars kids and staff with Aramark Kitchen chefs at the Rogers Centre in Toronto.

Imagine walking into an executive kitchen and running into a bunch of energetic kids, supported by professional chefs, who have an open access to all the kinds of ingredients you could think of to design their favourite menus.

What do you get? Expression of creativity, imagination and inspiration, on-the-spot problem solving, lots of questions and many candid moments that could ignite lasting friendships.

This was the situation as 20 kids, grade 1 to 6, took part in the Jays Care Kids Menu Design Day held on November 30 in the Aramark Kitchen at the Rogers Centre. The kids are part of the Home Run Scholars program which runs in eight Toronto Community Housing communities across the city from fall 2019 to spring 2020. 

The Home Run Scholars program provides a safe, fun and inclusive environment aimed at improving academic performance, physical, social and emotional well-being of children after school hours.

First, the kids got a tour of the kitchen and learned about some of the equipment — how they work and what they are used for. After the tour and the information session, they were divided into four cooking groups to design and prepare ingredients for their dishes — potpies, pasta, chips and dips, and fruit cake. The chefs provided hands-on support in areas that require a delicate use of kitchen appliances like the oven and flour mixer.

Aramark Executive Chef, Craig McAlister, says the purpose of the menu design day is to give the kids a chance to tap into their curiosity about food and to learn what it's like being a chef.

"The kids love this experience. They each find a way to customize their own dish with chicken, shrimps, vegetables and fruits. They really wanted to explore different ingredients and to make sure that their final creation is garnished to the level of their perfection," said McAlister.

Menus judged as the best will be featured in the Rogers Centre executive suite menu pamphlet. The proceeds of sales from the kids menus will go toward Home Run Scholars operations.

Sounds like a brilliant idea.

So if you are wondering how to keep your kids busy on a Saturday, get them plenty of ingredients and task them to make menus they love. However, brace yourself for a cleanup after!

Group of tenant youth in a kitchen tasting pies

Jahcoi (2nd to the left) and friends taste their potpies.

Tenant youth posing at a table and holding up letters

Danya (R) and her Home Run Scholar mentor, Dana, write thank you letters to Aramark chefs.

Group photo of chefs and staff in a kitchen

Executive Chef Craig McAlister, 3rd from left, and his team of chefs in the Aramark Kitchen located at the Rogers Centre, Toronto.