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2010 Hawthorne Valley Farm Trip -

This past month several NYC Teen Battle Chefs were given a chance to explore Hawthorne Valley Farm over two different weekends.  As a biodynamic farm, they were taught about the mixed farming approach that strives to balance out plants and animals based on a healthy soil life. They also learned the importance of avoiding hormones, pesticides and fertilizers to produce the freshest most natural ingredients.

During their first weekend the TBCs participated in the Halloween festival and learned the dynamics of the farm, as well as how the farm fit into the c ommunity. These NYC teenagers really got their hands dirty feeding pigs, walking goats, picking veggies, splitting wood and fetching eggs. Yes, they fetched their own eggs, and loved every minute of it!  As Janiel, a 15-year-old TBC from Brooklyn states,  “ I really enjoyed the wood splitting and while fetching eggs a chicken ate off my shoe!” Afterwards the TBCs made a beautiful candle lit organic dinner for the Hawthorne Valley friends and family.

The next weekend our teen chef’s became the teachers rather than the students. They used their knowledge from the TBC program to teach younger children, at Hawthorne Valley farm, how to cook and proper kitchen safety. They divided up into two teams and to combat the chilly weather outside, each group made a soup dish. As 18 year old Fatimah says “These kids were so smart they picked up the entire lesson in just one day.” The young chefs learned about the different vegetables being used and trusted their mentor’s judgment when it came to adding in vegetables they thought had a “yuck” factor!! Much to their surprise they enjoyed all the vegetables included in the dishes.  After the food had been made each team fashioned a creative presentation from information about the foods history and nutrients and included it as the meal was being served to their gracious hosts.

The weekend ended with a hike with the goats and a heartfelt goodbye by all.  Both weekends, the Teen Battle Chefs learned something about the farm and about themselves, and thoroughly enjoyed each day.





icon-6Teen Battle Chef in Farmington Valley CT Grows to 5 Schools - The Farmington Valley Health District partnered with FamilyCook last year to bring  the TBC program to Canton High School.  The experience proved so valuable to the students that the initator, Todd Christopher, a former professional chef and currently a Sanitarian for the Health District, worked his network of educators within four more of the neighboring towns.  Todd then organized a FamilyCook training in August to make it possible for 5 local high schools to participate in Teen Battle Chef over the 2010-11 school year!  This development was celebrated in a kick off to the  "back to school" season with teams of Teen Battle Chefs from the following schools all 'competing' at an event at the Simsbury Farmers Market: Avon, Simsbury, Canton, Granby and Farmington Valley!  As the photos below attest, an excellent and educational experience was enjoyed by all!
























icon-62010 Teen Battle Chef Summer Intern Brigade - This summer FamilyCook launched its most ambitious summer program serving youth and our underserved NYC communities. The TBC Summer Intern Brigade project invited instructors of Teen Battle Chefs across NYC to nominate 2-3 stellar students in their program to be matched with paid summer internships.  The internship opportunities involved one of four types: 1) restaurants; 2) farmers markets and CSAs in food deserts; 3) community gardens; and 4) summer youth camps.  In all cases, the selected youth would be busy cooking, doing farm-fresh demos and/or teaching cooking to younger children in camps.

The program's great success was due to our stellar youth mentors: Hayden Maloney and Jessica Scheer as well as our partner organizations who took on the youth in their summer programs.  Jessica and Hayden were remarkable mentors.  Both public health undergrads from George Washington University and John Hopikins respectively, they shared the formidable task of keeping up with the varied activities of the teens all summer, ensuring teen and job host were in sync, and managed to provide further food systems education to the students, take them on field trips,  chaperone their speical events such as Meatopia, start a fabulous blog for kids postings and reflections, help them use their experience in college essays, and plan a program finale: a wonderful potluck picnic at Union Square Park!

The blog is a particularly great way to get a taste of what the kids accomplished in their own words. Or you can take a peek at the video at their closing picnic where they each vow in their Teen Battle Chef closing salute to carry on the Teen Battle Chef community work in their own unique way as they return to school

We could not have accomplished so much without them and we heartily thank Jessica and Hayden for a job skillfully done!  Additionally, we would like to acknowledge all the summer program partners who hosted our youth's summer jobs:

Candle Cafe; Dominick Cafe; Friends of Brook Park; Grow NYC Youthmakets; Jimmy's 43; New York Restoration ProjectNorthern Spy Food Co.; Slow Food; and the Sylvia Center.

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Hayden & Jessica, Mentors Extraordinaire               Henry working with his chef @Meatopia on Governor's Island


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Joel giving his sign of approval @Meatopia


icon-6Highway 2 Health Festival & Youth Forum - Teens from across 5 boroughs of NYC, along with South Bronx Communitiy members joined this exhilarating event on June 12, co-produced by HealthCorps and Baum Forum.  Among the partners were FamilyCook's Teen Battle Chef Program, NYC Food & Fitness Partnership; Montefiore Hospital Pediatric Department; NYC Strategic Alliance 4 Health, Children's Aid Society, among others.  In addition to interactive booths of info on general health, activity, gardenng and healthy eating, the center stage with live entertainment ran the gamut from Zoomba and Step Teams to Ihsan and others!  Inside @the Healthy Food Mall, FamilyCook's Teen Battle Chefs presented their Veggie ID activity, offering up a table full of farm-fresh foods for participants to taste and guess what they were!  Outside, the Teen Battle Chefs made sure kids would want to grow herbs and flowers as they presented Flower Power Sandwiches with an array of colorful and delicious edible flowers!

And if that were not enough excitement, HealthCorps Coordinators and instructors from other organizations presented workshops on such topics as Sports Nutrition and  My School, My Community, My Food.  There was even a film festival featuring segments from What's On Your Plate? and Underground, The Final Battle of Teen Battle Chef for the school year was presented to a large audience hungry for tastings of the delicious recipes cooked up by the two teams of young chefs: Fricasse and Salade Nicoise.  But of course there was other delicious food to be had from Candle Cafe and even Chipotle!

Many thanks to all the sponsors, participants and volunteers who made the day a huge success!

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greentomatoFamilyCook @ The White House On June 4th, nearly 500 chefs from across the US converged on the South Lawn of the White House at the invitation of First Lady Michele Obama.  The launch of  First Lady's Innitiave "Chefs Move to Schools" was the occasion, and FamilyCook fonder Lynn Fredericks was an invitee and part of a delegation of Les Dames d'Escoffier Green Tables participants.  The invited chef participants were all currently involved with healthy food and garden initiatives in schools.

The First Lady had encouraged the chefs to: 1) Take things slow - schools can't handle big changes too quickly; 2) encourage other chef colleagues to participate; 3) sign up on the Chef's Move to Schools registry; and 4) Be the role models for children on nutrition and healthy eating because kids look as chefs as 'rock stars.'

We look forward to participating in this initiative and encouraging more chefs to Adopt a School - we have already engaged  new chefs this summer: in our school-based Teen Battle Chef Program: Chef Jimmy Carbone of Jimmy's 43; Chef Joy Pierson of Candle Cafe; and Chef Christophe Hille of Northern Spy Food Co!

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2icon-6nd Annual Teen Battle Chef Invitational - Teen Battle Chefs from CT, NJ and NYC trekked to Brooklyn last month to compete in the 2nd Annual Teen Battle Chef Invitational.  The event, co-produced by HealthCorps and FamilyCook Productions with invaluable support from our host school, Urban Assembly of Music and Art (UAMA), included over 20 students from as many schools.  The student contestants, emerged from the kitchen in a dramatic swirl of fog and music! Top Teen Battle Chefs Nyasha Alexander (17, UAMA) and Kristie Polanco (17, West Side HS) MC'ed the event.  

Each of the four competing teams prepared and presented a delicious recipe from a different culture to an audience of over 100 people.  Guest judges included Chefs from Candle Cafe and Jimmy's 43, cookbook authors Lorna Sass and Georgia Downard, nutritionists like Vegan Chef Alexandra Jamieson of "Supersize Me" fame, School Food Menu Director, Billy Doherty, and representatives from both the Harlem Children's Museum and The Huffington Post.  The unusual cook off celebrated the newly honed culinary skills and nutrition knowledge the students gained this year in their Teen Battle Chef clubs and classes.   

The students worked together harmoniously despite having never met before.  UAMA student, Bernardo Rivera, commented, "It was like we were a family as soon as we get in the room together to practice our presentation."  The youth were impressively articulate and entertaining at the mic as they discussed sophisticated ideas such as the need for 'balance in food as in life.' Everyone was moved as student after student described how being a Teen Battle Chef has changed their lives and supported them to make healthier choices. The MC, Nyasha Alexander, shared that her family used to be more apt to put her down, and now they see her as a leader in their family.  

The competition recipes included (link to recipe or recipes?) East African Greens, two Middle Eastern Salads (Hummus and Tahini), Caribbean Salsa and Tilapia, and Green Chili and Tomatillo Tamales.  Winning by narrow margins were the Caribbean and East African teams, who were awarded signed copies of "Eat Fresh Food:Awesome Recipes for Teen Chefs" generously donated by Chef and Author Rozanne Gold.  Second place prizes were Burrito Bucks from Chipotle. These top teen chefs will compete again for the Final Battle at the Highway to Health (link) Festival & Youth Forum on June 12.  

Special thanks to HealthCorps, all the HealthCorp Coordinators, Todd Christopher from Farmington Valley Health District and UAMA students and staff and to our Teen Battle Chef national sponsor, Circulon Gourmet Cookware!

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Teen Battle Chefs Inspire Guests @ HealthCorps Gala - Ticon-6hree stellar Teen Battle Chefs were chosen by their HealthCorps Coordinators to represent their school at the HealthCorps Garden of Good and Evil Benefit Gala on April 21st.  Bronx students Vrutant Patel and Carlton Shakes of JFK High School and Head Chef Kristie Polanco of West Side High School made bowls of brightly colored Caribbean Salsa for the 700 guests.  The A-list of guests and honorees included HealthCorps’ Founder, Dr. Mehmet Oz, his writing partner, Dr. Michael Roizen, the NFL’s Kerry Rhodes, and Celebrity Chef Rocco DiSpirito.   The young men from JFK had never met Kristie before but that didn’t stop them from instantly bonding and following Kristie’s experienced lead as they set up their station, reviewed the recipe, and planned how to execute the needed quantity for a large and discerning crowd. The well-prepared teens blew everyone away with their expert knife skills and casual conversation about their program, and their activities as community leaders.  

From the students' perspective, they relished the opportunity to prep their ingredients in a professional kitchen at Pier 61 in Chelsea Piers, under the generous tutoring of chefs from Abigail Kirsch Catering.  By the end of the night, the teens were exchanging contact info before walking out onto the red carpet, with heads held high: another successful event done, with many more to come!

Special thanks to chaperone, Ms. Nasser and HealthCorps Coordinators, Jeff Lin and Sarah Frank for making the students gala presentation possible by training such phenomenal Teen Battle Chefs!



FamilyCook to Support HealthCorps FitTown USA Initiative - HealthCorps® — a proactive health movement, founded by heart surgeon and host of the nationally syndicated talk show “The Dr. Oz Show”, Dr. Mehmet Oz, is fighting the obesity and mental resilience crises by getting American high school students and communities across the country to take charge of their health. Earlier this year FamilyCook rolled out its Teen Battle Chef Leadership programs in each of HealthCorps’ 50 schools nationwide. We are also expanding our partnership with HealthCorps to provide support for new initiatives, program evaluation, HealthCorps Coordinator training, nutrition curriculum development, and facilitation of community liaisons in the gardening and culinary worlds.

This spring, as part of the FitTown initiative, HealthCorps students are analyzing their homes, schools and neighborhoods through photo voice to identify local opportunities to make healthy choices easier. In the next phase of this community work, students are teaming up with community organizations, younger students, government agencies and service volunteers to realize opportunities for change.  The underlying goals of FitTown are to create opportunities to: 1) increase physical activity, 2) improve access to safe places where children can play 3) increase availability of healthier foods at home; and 4) advocate for healthier local, state and federal policies. As HealthCorps intensifies its FitTown USA commitment to improving the health of communities, FamilyCook will support HealthCorps Coordinators to mentor Teen Battle Chef leaders to become change agents in their school communities. Additionally, our strategic partners are creating a ‘marriage’ of one of HeathCorps’ annual Highway to Health Festivals in New York City & the NYC Youth Forum & Expo developed in 2009 by NYC Food & Fitness Partnership and the Baum Forum.

As HealthCorps President Michelle Bouchard moves to integrate the concepts of garden-to-table education more deeply into the organization’s core curriculum, FamilyCook and its Teen Battle Chef program provide key support to achieve this goal, such as Teen Battle Chefs leading their cooking demos and yoga classes in community and school gardens or teens embarking on internships catering community events, reinventing School Food, leading workshops for all ages, and growing delicious sustainable food in community gardens and urban farms.

greentomatoFamilyCook Programs Take Root at PA Farm! Spoutwood Community Supported Agriculture Farm in Glenrock, Pennsylvania, is the first rural sponsor of FamilyCook programs! Spoutwood will also be a PA/MD regional facilitator for FamilyCook trainings. Interested participants from community youth and/or health organizations, Scouts, CSAs, home-school associations, schools and YM/YWCAs can attend a regional training to be certified to lead FamilyCook programs in the region. Additionally, Spoutwood’s leadership at the farm will empower youth to become the driving force behind growing, cooking, eating, and celebrating sustainable food in this geographic region. Get ready for an urban/farm exchange program where FamilyCook program participants share ideas, events, and challenges online AND at upcoming invitational events. It’s been exciting to see observe how values around sustainable food and health are shared among such different communities — we can’t wait to arrange some visits for these young chefs to meet each other!

But that’s not all that Spoutwood’s and FamilyCook are cooking up together; the Dinner Party project is already underway at the farm. Family members from toddlers to adults have been engaged in trying new foods, practicing recipes, sending invitations, making place mats and paper flower decorations to get ready for the big event. On February 20, the program culminated in a celebratory meal at Spoutwood, prepared and shared by the participating children and their families and friends.

By spring, Spoutwood will focus on the Teen Battle Chef program, with a triumphant cook-off at program’s end. May will initiate Teen Battle Chef cooking demonstrations & teen internships at Spoutwood’s nationally renowned May Day Fairie Festival, April 30 and May 1-2. Farm families are looking forward to garden-to-table cooking activities and demonstrations throughout the 2010 Spoutwood Farm CSA growing season, as well as hosting an Invitational Teen Battle Chef Cook-Off at the 2010 Mother Earth Harvest Fair, October 3, 2010!

To register a young person for the Teen Battle Chef Program, or contact Liz Leinwand @ This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Organizations interested in sending staff to Spoutwood’s FamilyCook regional training session should email Rob Wood at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .


bluepot Winter '10: FamilyCook Founder’s 1998 Food Predictions Realized

Recently, we unearthed a blast from the past—an article from The Advocate in Stamford, CT on Monday, December 28th, 1998 called “Kids 2k—What’s ahead for them in the new millennium?” by Nadia Lerner. In it, FamilyCook Founder, Lynn Fredericks offers her predictions for the future of food:
“Parents will become more involved in their kids’ school lunch programs through parent committees and grass roots movements. By 2005 or 2010, health school lunch programs will include fresh vegetables, fruits, grains and legumes. On the home front, increasing numbers of parents will read labels before reaching for convenience foods. ready-made healthy foods will be easier to buy: bean soups in a bag, pre-made risotto, pilaf and polenta, ethnic stir fries. Tofu will grow in popularity.”

Lynn’s predictions for the new millennium are uncannily accurate. Here are just a FEW examples of the ways they have come to fruition in the last few years:

1. Healthy School Foods is a movement who’s time has finally come:

  • In NYC SchoolFood is turning itself inside out to launch garden to cafeteria programs, locally sourcing produce, and shifting to more plant-based recipes in order to respond to parents, students and grassroots community health advocates.
  • A new NYC Public Schools Chancellors regulation bans all competitive foods from being sold in schools unless they meet with the School Food nutrition standard!
  • Two Angry Moms, a documentary by concerned parents has been presented at hundreds of PTA events around the country, leading to school food committees and new school policies on what is served.

2. Marketing the Healthy choice the easy choice:
I am sure that many of you have sampled (or even rely on!) the healthy prepared meals and side dishes that are now widely available from grocers and food companies.

Some of out favorites are:

  • Annie’s Organics, Healthy Choice, and Taste of India microwavable lunches- tofu stir fry, pad thai, pasta with fresh mozz
  • Trader Joes- breakfast burritos and shrimp potstickers
  • Fairway prepared soups- frozen or fresh
  • Whole Foods- salad bar to go
  • Fresh Direct- Sides in a Snap
  • Chipotle- burritos (a quick-serve restaurant with fresh ingredients -- often locally sourced -- and simple preparations)

What powerful predictions do you forsee developing within the “good food movement” over the next decade?



51180EwHQUL._SL500_AA240_Fall '09: New Cookbook for Adolescents, Eat Fresh Food: Awesome Recipes for Teen Chefs by award-winning author Rozanne Gold is smash hit with teens!  We not only recommend this delightful new book, but will be partnering with the author and our Teen Battle Chefs in upcoming author appearances and signings.  We'll reveal a schedule of appearances with Ms. Gold in January. For now, be sure to purchase a copy for all the budding chefs on our holiday wish list!  Here's a taste of some of the deliciously teen-friendly recipes!




icon-6 Fall '09: Teen Battle Chef Launched in Connecticut this fall as the result of a new partnership between FamilyCook and the Farmington Valley Health District north of Hartford.  Visionary Health Educator Todd Christopher, along with dietetic colleague, Teresa Dotson, attended the FamilyCook training for the program in August and launched the 7-week program at Canton High School in mid-October.  By December 15th, the 10 students were ready for their Final Battle which consisted of two teams of students.  In 60 minutes, each team would prepare two unfamiliar recipes in a foreign kitchen under the watchful eyes of 5 judges, including FamilyCook founder, Lynn Fredericks, Canton schools superintendent Kevin Case, and Farmington Valley Director of Health Richard Matheny at the Sur la Table in Canton.  The photos below reveal how proud the students were to have a professional venue, the judges and over 40 friends and family on hand to cheer them on over their achievements!  The project is but the first facet of the district's "Building Healthy Families" program that addresses child obesity.




Read more about Farmington Valley Health District's plans for implementing more FCP programs in the coming months!

icon-6 Fall '09: Teen Battle Chef is launching in 50 new schools through a new partnership with Dr. Oz's HealthCorps.  By November, HealthCorps schools in NYC (26), Arizona (2), California (3), Florida (9), Mississippi (2), New Jersey (2), Ohio (2), Pennsylvania (2), and Texas (2) will be running the program after school.

"We are thrilled to have an opportunity to expand the availability of the program in new communities thanks to the HealthCorps concept and their terrific coordinators who commit to a minimum of 2 years of service as a youth mentor and educator at each HealthCorps school.  With this type of commitment and enthusiasm, we know that our joint goals for youth to take on important food education role in their schools and surrounding community will get tremendous support," notes Lynn Fredericks, author and FamilyCook founder.

icon-6 Spring '09:  1st Annual Teen Battle Chef Invitational was co-produced by FamilyCook & HealthCorps.  The very successful NYC youth-led cooking competition WOWed  an audience of over 50 chefs, nutritionists, Food Network staff, and Broadway stars, to name a few. The tradition will continue in spring 2010 with the 2nd Annual Teen Battle Chef Invitational.  Date to be announced in January.


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Learn more about Teen Battle Chef