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I teach a high school food and nutrition course. What do you think are the most important topics to cover to get kids Intetested in culinary?

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Cynthia is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

added over 1 year ago
Voted the Best Answer!

Knife skills. With sharp knives. And how to sauté. Chances are excellent that they'll eat whatever they cut up and cook themselves. Tell them why it's good for them later.


Barbara is a trusted source on General Cooking.

added over 1 year ago

I'm not sure exactly what you mean by culinary, since we all have to feed ourselves. i think the most important thing is to get them cooking. And maybe take them shopping so they can learn how to make food choices. Planning a menu. Balancing flavors and textures. The miracle that is salt. The joy of the farmer's market. Choosing food wisely. Like that.

HalfPint added over 1 year ago

I think that salt, sugar, carbohydrates and fat should be covered. Questions for each:

What is it?
What does it do for food?
Why is it needed?
What is good and bad about it?

Pair lecture with demos and tastings to make it interesting. My favorite high school memory was making pizza because we were studying yeast.

chef of the future 2000 added over 1 year ago

Teach them to cook things they eat, can complete in a 45 minute class, and that they can be proud of to share with friends and at home.

HalfPint added over 1 year ago

Knife skills are a must. However, knifes are classifed as weapons and students aren't allowed to carry them even if it's for lunch. Remember that little girl who was suspended for bringing a steak knife to cut up her lunch? I can't even see the school administrators allowing a knife skills class simply because they couldn't afford the liability coverage.


Cynthia is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

added over 1 year ago

I wasn't suggesting students should bring their own; I've yet to see a school-based teaching kitchen that didn't have a single knife!

Benny added over 1 year ago

wow, that is a tough one. I can remember my high school food and nutrition class. If I remember it correctly, it was difficult for any of us to remain interested and not get distracted. This was partly because the teacher was a female version of Ben Stein who could do little more than make us take turns reading paragraphs out of a book and then popping in an old VHS made in the 80's. But also, I think kids at that age just don't care as much about food and nutrition. When I was that young, I could take down an entire pizza by myself and feel great afterwards; much less, care about how much fat/calories I just consumed.

Whatever you do, it needs to be more about giving them projects to keeping them engaged VS reading out of a nutrition book or watching out dated videos. Do you have a food lab with kitchen equipment where the students can actually experiment with cooking? or is this only a classroom based course? What age group/grade are these students in?

If they are close to graduating, perhaps focus on how to eat healthy while in college. I would definately spend some time explainging how to read an ingredient labels and what some of those hard to read ingredients are. Also, proper portion sizes, eating the rainbow, etc.

Sam1148 added over 1 year ago

Pan frying things like a chicken breast. You'd be surprised how many new cooks are impatient and try to turn it too early, making it stick. (not such a big deal with non-stick stuff).
From that recipe: One pan fried chicken breast. Seasoned!!
You could branch into several dishes. One with tomatoes onions peppers as a sauce, one with a cream sauce, one with chicken piccata (which would be introduction to using corn starch in stock to make a sauce and using soft butter off heat to finish a sauce).
You could save your budget by teaching them to cut a chicken breast into two flat section..and pounding it flat.
With the cream sauce one you could boil pasta to serve, and talk about plating techniques adding the chicken over the pile of pasta and parsley to finish. Easy stuff. Or do fish (if the budget allows it) and some similar sauces.
And of course, side dishes and basic salad dressing ratio---which many just know the bottle stuff. Spices would enter into that bit too.

amysarah added over 1 year ago

If the goal is to get students interested in cooking for the first time, I'd concentrate on making things they love to eat - homemade pizza, a good basic pasta sauce, maybe how to roast a chicken or some vegetables, kneading bread dough, a stir fry, a simple vinaigrette/salad, perhaps a fruit pie - focusing on the benefits of fresh, seasonal ingredients. Certainly talk about knife skills and technique as you go, but from my experience cooking with teenagers (my own!), the gratification of preparing/eating something they love will capture their interest/imagination more than starting by emphasizing technical skills.


AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

added over 1 year ago

As the mother of two young men who are just starting to take responsibility for earning their way in the world (on a limited scale until they graduate from college, but they're expected to contribute significantly now, so they're learning a lot about choices), I have seen first hand (i) how important it is for kids to know about lower cost alternatives and (ii) how much they appreciate having the skills to put together nutritious meals while leaving more in their pockets for things that matter a lot (in my sons' cases, nice clothes, interesting travel, great books and entertaining the young ladies). So if I had the opportunity, I'd run some numbers, demonstrating what you can buy at the end of the year with the money you don't spend on a regular basis for water + lots of sugar + a squirt or two of syrup + some coffee concentrate (i.e., that mocha frappucino) (the numbers are staggering), or even that ready-made salad that could easily be made for 1/3 or less the cost, and if you make your own with some forethought, you'll be left with great stuff for sandwiches, other salads, etc. the next day. Kids love feeling empowered by being able to make their own decisions, and especially, to allocate their resources wisely. Many haven't stopped to think about how much money is unnecessarily spent on prepared foods, much of which is not particularly nutritious. Unless these kids have parents who are well off and give their kids unlimited resources (how very sad), the youngsters will greatly appreciate being able to make better choices. There are already at least a dozen excellent ideas in these comments. My point is really about motivation, without which all the skills and strategy information are, in a word, pointless. ;o)

Cannizzo added over 1 year ago

Teach them to read ingredients on the foods they eat everyday and really show them on how much sugar and other bad ingredients they are really eating everyday

Louisa added over 1 year ago

Show how much more value/taste they can get for their dollar (and nutrition, but maybe don't harp) when they learn to take a few simple ingredients and make a great dish. And how to make great coffee/drinks/pastries at a fraction of the cost they'd spend at a coffee shop. Maybe break into teams and have them do a menu with a budget, do it like a chef's show competition and see what they can come up with? And in a team they could experience the fun it is to plan, cook and taste, mistakes and all, within a community.


AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

added over 1 year ago

What a great idea, Louisa!! ;o)

Jenn60 added over 1 year ago

When my son was about 12, he was thrilled to have a cooking class at school. He got together with some classmates & asked he teacher if they could have a Cooking Club & she agreed. Every week they asked her if they could make a particular dish (pizza pops, cinnamon buns, whatever they decided among themselves). She'd get the ingredients, & they'd make it during their lunch hour on Friday. My son already loved making cookies & spaghetti sauce at home, but this was an entirely new order of fun. After high school he became a professional chef (2 years college & lots of work in restaurants), & has just opened his own restaurant! There's some inspiration for you. I recommend you get feedback from your students on ideas for projects.

nutcakes added over 1 year ago

Sex sells. Open the idea of a romantic dinner for two. The women might cook more, but the will appreciate it more if a boy makes a dinner for them. They can also cook to impress family too.

I think it is a good idea to ask for favorite foods, but in a suggestion box, and draw a few to show how you can make it on your own.

Kristen W. added over 1 year ago

I've never taught food and nutrition, but I've done a lot of teaching of groups of different ages, and I think that the first thing to do, before any information is given, is to establish rapport, to get you students to be willing to "go with you" wherever you go. I would start by asking them questions: what is your absolute favorite meal (you can make it more dramatic -- and therefore adolescent-friendly -- by asking them what they would eat for their LAST meal. Ask them what foods they hate and why, who's the best cook they know and why, what's the grossest food they've ever eaten and why, etc. Make lists on the board, make the questions fun, ridiculous, anything that elicits a VISCERAL response. That has to happen before they will give you an intellectual response. Make up games about food facts and let moving around the room somehow be a part of the game. Let the boys and girls compete with each other -- they'll love that. If you can get the energy up in the first five minutes (laughter and movement are great ways of soon this) you will have them. YOUR passion also has to be apparent. And let them try things that DON''T work and let them taste and try to guess why. This is both a tremendously useful pedagogical technique and an opportunity to let them vent their natural adolescent love of criticism (and thus an opportunity to show them you're on their side). You can't and won't hook all of them -- as Benny noted, this is indeed a tough crowd -- but if they can connect the techniques and information with their own stories and their own feelings, you'll hook the ones that can be hooked. There's tremendous potential here -- beat of luck!

Kristen W. added over 1 year ago

That's BEST, of luck, I mean...

Kristen W. added over 1 year ago

Upon re-reading your question, I see that I answered only the part about getting kids interested, and not the "what topics to cover" part. I guess I can rationalize that by saying that I suppose I think that that with kids, topics are often secondary to rapport as a means of getting them interested in the first place. That said, I think there are lots of great topics listed above as well. OK, I'm done!

MTMitchell added over 1 year ago

This answer is entirely dependent on the community in which you teach so this may be useless but....in the communities/schools in which I've worked a lot of the kids have a fair amount of responsibility for themselves and other family members and live in areas where getting fresh food, produce, etc is difficult. I had a colleague do a unit with kids about what you get for $20 at McDonalds, at the corner store, and at the grocery store and then taught them how to make healthy meals with and stretch the ingredients from the grocery store. It was eye-opening for kids and adults. I'd echo what others said -- make it things kids like (teach them how to make a healthier pizza than the place on the corner and how to make a whole pizza for the cost of a slice for example), things that are a base for lots of stuff (chicken cutlets above), and if it makes sense for your community, things that can be stretched (beans, a whole chicken), and nutrition. You may need to start with the basics.

Not cooking per se but I worked with our culinary arts teacher and did a unit with Super Size me where we leaned about nutrition and making choices. The kids loved it because they were "watching a movie." We ended the unit with a conversation and activity about food deserts.

Sorry if this isn't useful -- the content and focus would be completely different in more resources communities.

amysarah added over 1 year ago

I think this is an excellent point, MTMitchell. For the information/skills you teach to resonate and be useful to your students, it has to make sense within the context of their lives - culturally, economically, in terms of availability of ingredients. Teaching them to master some basics, things that teenagers like to eat, that are the tastiest/healthiest version within that context would be a great lesson. And yes to teaching how much tastier, healthier and cheaper it can be to make highly commercialized items like coffee, burgers, etc. (so heavily marketed to teens) at home.

dymnyno added over 1 year ago

One of the most fun classes that I ever took was at UC Berkeley from Art Grant (now gone) who taught us about color and the importance of color in our lives and our diet. Each class we would focus on a color and bring foods to class that were that color. We would spend the whole class talking about the nuances of color and also how it tasted. And then before the class ended we would share and feast on all our examples.

Gourmet Metrics added over 1 year ago

So many interesting and varied ideas presented here. I tend to favor the get them cooking approach. Or maybe more fundamental, build confidence that most everyone can learn to cook with enough practice. As for nutrition, and I say this a nutritionist, my suggestion is to stay food based and positive when ever possible. For example, tomatoes are red and a source of lycopene and cooking them down a bit to a tomato sauce with a healthy dose of olive oil both concentrates the lycopene and enhances absorption.

Sadassa_Ulna added over 1 year ago

This is such an interesting question and as an "eater," a novice cook, and a parent of two teens I will be reading and re-reading everyone's thoughtful responses. I love the idea of teaching "how to make a vinaigrette" and knife skills with a lesson on salad. Many of them touch on what amysarah sums up so well: "tastier, healthier, and cheaper." Here are some ideas that came to my mind:

GLOBAL CUISINE: Maybe discuss how other cultures eat. A lesson could be based on Indian cooking, with a simple bean or chickpea curry and a homemade chutney, or a demonstration could show how an inexpensive cut of pork could be cooked 'low and slow' and magically transform into tasty carnitas to eat with hot tortillas and homemade green salsa. Many 'gourmet" ingredients are inexpensive staples at ethnic food markets. Pad Thai or Chinese fried rice?

LESS MEAT CAN BE OK : I have seen kids go through "phases" of vegetarianism for various reasons (ethical, environmental, friends are doing it, etc.), and for them that means omitting meat and just eating more bread and cheese. It might be helpful to include a lesson on how to incorporate more protein into your diet with beans, nuts, and seeds, in addition to dairy products, eggs, and fish, if one chooses to eat less meat. Vegetarian or not, falafel and hummus is a delicious high-protein meal that can be made at home.

SCIENCE : One of my favorite aspects of cooking is the science of it, and how simple ingredients can be transformed into something else. Whipping egg whites for fluffy frittata-style omelets, making caramel, turning grated parmesan into frico, naturally fermented root beer, pickles, marshmallows, ice cream; some of these could be long-term projects. Sourdough?

MORE BASICS: how to cook rice properly, bake potatoes, hard-boil eggs, steam vegetables, roast a chicken, make a roux (for homemade mac-n-cheese), homemade popcorn.... there are so many basic skills kids don't know.

COOKING FOR OTHERS : And last, the joy from cooking good food and feeding others. Making a successful dish is satisfying and esteem-building. Could you give a "final project" where kids select a recipe and cook it at home for their families, then write about the process, the smells, the tastes, the family's responses, etc.?

Sorry for the length of this response but I really like thinking about this!

No need to email me as additional
answers are added to this question.