FamilyCook Productions

Past Spotlights

Here at FamilyCook Productions, we like to highlight some of the highest achievers in our Teen Battle Chef program - students, instructors, and schools who go above and beyond!  See some of our past spotlights below:

Past Student Spotlights:

Joel Allette:


Here at FamilyCook Productions, we like to highlight some of our highest-achieving teens in our Teen Battle Chef program. Joel Allette has been a TBC member for the past year and a half, he joined TBC as a HealthCorps student at James Baldwin High School in Manhattan. When he first joined he was interested in cooking and often watched such shows as the Emeril Lagasse Show and the Food Network. After he graduated from the Teen Battle Chef program he went on to the Teen Battle Chef Leadership program and earned an internship at the Sylvia Center. There he assisted in teaching younger children how to cook and eat healthier, incorporating real foods into their diet. He emphasized the importance of using fresh ingredients such as husked corn rather than canned and how to use these ingredients in simple dishes that any child or parent can execute. He enjoyed working at the Center and after the internship was offered a job because of his personable attitude and positive outlook.  Joel then went on to attend many other leadership events such as the well-attended Fall Teen Battle Chef Showdowns at Whole Foods Markets in NYC.  His presentation was so well recieved that he was asked to speak on Heritage Network Radio Show "The Main Course" in Brooklyn where his and his fellow TBCs discussed their outlook on the health of NYC youth and how adequate the NYC School Food menu is.

After his successful internship he was offered a spot in a competition event for the new 4Food Restaurant. This competition among the TBC leaders included a recipe development to create the best "veggiescoop" on the menu. 4Food is a new restaurant that recently opened in Manhattan and encourages healthy fast food. They allow their patrons to pick and choose the "burger" which consists of many different varieties including rice patties, salmon, lamb and your traditonal beef burger. In addition to the patty you then select a "veggiescoop" that goes into the middle of the burger. Our TBC students were allowed to create one of these scoops and Joel was on the winning team.  He and his partner (& fellow Teen Battle Chef) Molly Bhuiyan created a Chinese Braised Kale scoop that was healthy, interesting and undeniably delicious. Their scoop went onto the fall menu and was well received by all, becoming one of the most popular items.

This young man, with his outgoing attitude and everlasting humor, was then offered to emcee HealthCorp’s annual 'Chili Saves Lives' Chili Fest Fundraiser on January 21st at the Brooklyn Brewery. Thrilled to be requested Joel rocked the show as if he were Emeril himself.

We at TBC are honored to work with students like Joel who are motivated and courageous enough to stand up and be heard through the din of the crowd to bring important messages to those who can benefit from them and change the quality of their life as Joel has changed his own.

Meet Fernando:



Fernando Rodriguez was born in Madrid, Spain, from a Spanish father and Dominican mother.  He is a student at a long-time HealthCorps school, the George Washington Educational Campus.  Fernando has been participating with HealthCorps programs at his school for about 18 months and Teen Battle Chef for about 12 months, and has found it an experience that has changed a lot of things in his life.  Fernando says, “I have changed my diet, my goals and expectations of the future and have been officially declared the house chef, and my father, an actual chef, wants me to cook alongside him in Spain.  This has been an amazing year for me because of Teen Battle Chef and I hope it gets even better as I head into the future.”

Fernando is one of our star players at Teen Battle Chef. A quiet and reserved young man, one would never know how he lights up the stage at our public events, and the skill he has for capturing the audience’s attention with his ability to articulate the recipes he executes.

As part of the Teen Battle Chef internship program, Fernando worked as an intern at Jimmy's No. 43 restaurant, and was subsequently hired as a part-time employee, the only Teen Battle Chef to make such an immediate transistion.

Additionally, Fernando has participated at the Whole Food Markets TBC Showdowns, Robin Quiver's Benefit Marathon Run, the Hawthorne Valley Farm Trip, FamilyCook Productions' 'Chefs' Roundtable', both the HealthCorps & the Food System Network NYC Chili Cookoffs, and will be presenting soon about the TBC program to graduate students at the CUNY School of Public Health.

Before TBC, Fernando had a very poor diet and did not think much about what he ate. His good friend got him to go to one of the nutrition meetings at their school and since then he’s been hooked!  Shortly after he joined TBC he learned how to cook for himself as well as his family. He now eats much better and cooks his family delicious and healthy meals that incorporate his Spanish heritage. He has helped his family eat differently, and is very proud of having that influence on his family’s health.  We're proud to have him as a Teen Battle Chef!


New Instructor Spotlights:

Meet Paul Obarowski @ Farmington Valley High School

Photo Credit: Kaitlin McCallum
Paul Obarowski, Chef at Matthew’s Restaurant in Unionville, CT, signed on as a volunteer instructor in August 2010 and reported for training, despite his obvious competencies.  The school was relieved to have an actual chef, since their TBC program was intended as a way for the school to maintain a culinary program as a Continuing Education offering, despite budget cuts since the cost is subsidized by FamilyCook’s partner, the  Farmington Valley Health District.

Paul’s ultimate goal for his students was development of an array of core life skills.  "It is an alternative learning environment,” he explains, “ I feel we are teaching them things they can't learn in the classroom.

With a successful fall session behind them, Paul next  challenge was to prepare his students to compete in a district-wide “Final Battle” last January, where Teen Battle Chefs from 5 regional high schools battled it out by preparing an appetizers, entrées and desserts  from 5 cultures.  Over 200 local residents, parents, siblings and media crowded into Simsbury HS cafeteria to watch, including FamilyCook founder, Lynn Fredericks as a member of the judging panel.

By spring semester, Chef Paul found that his Teen Battle Chefs already exceeded his expectations. To raise the bar, and challenge them further, his class of veteran’ TBCs, were turning out recipes requiring increasingly sophisticated techniques.  The students progressed beyond basic cooking to become culinary artists capable of embroidering a recipe and making it their own!

Twin sisters, Christina and Courtney Welch, represented their program at the TBC Invitational on Broadway, escorted to NYC on May 12 with Chef Paul. He coached Team Japan, tweaking the recipe to enhance flavor and showcase the young chefs’ skills. Given some challenging logistics with young people convening in a make-shift kitchen, Chef Paul’s ‘can do’ attitude kept his team focused and confident – yet another contribution for which we at FamilyCook acknowledge with much appreciation!

At year’s end, Farmington’s Spring Final Battle pitted TBC students against their teachers – and the students were the winners!  As one student acknowledged, ““You helped [us] go from just having an interest in the kitchen to having talent in the kitchen!”  As Rose LeBlanc, a guest judge and nutritionist observes, “,  “Paul is a great mentor because he doesn’t hold them too strictly to the recipe. He gets them to experiment and learn to balance the flavors.”  We salute Chef Paul for his commitment to the young people in his community. For more about his students’ successes, read about it in the Hartford Courant and the Farmington Patch !

(Photo Credit: Kaitlin McCallum)



New Region Spotlights:

Two HealthCorps TBC Programs in Laurel, Delaware


This year brought Teen Battle Chef to a new state through our national partnership with HealthCorps -- Delaware!

Laurel and Thomas McKean High Schools, both in Laurel Delaware, are two of the newest schools to boast Teen Battle Chef programs as a result of HealthCorps new presence in the state.  HealthCorps coordinators Molly Alawode, at McKean, and Sumaiya Sarwar, at Laurel,  blazed a trail for young health activists.   Working together, Sumaiya and Molly support each other’s HealthCorps initiatives all year.  This teamwork culminated in, among many highlights,  an exciting Final Battle where the prestigious judges included the First Lady of Delaware!

Recipe for Success at McKean

Molly’s co-instructor at McKean was a chef volunteer from the First Lady’s “Chefs on the Move” initiative.  Molly’s reports that a high point for her students was sitting down to eat together each week - especially the mussels because they eat with their hands, while chatting about their battle and unique experience! Molly devised a terrific strategy to encourage teachers to participate as judges:  she circulated the schedule of battles complete with the list of mouth-watering recipes that would be featured for teachers to sign up in advance. This was a stellar move -- McKean always had a full house of expectant judges.  Coming up in the fall, Mckean TBCs will complete in a culinary competition to kick off a year of stirring up change in Delaware!

Achievements at Laurel High

Sumaiya’s crew loved their recipes so much that they sometimes gave her money to her to buy them some of the international ingredients needed to cook them from stores far from their homes so they could show off the new recipe strategies to their families.   Two students from Laurel made the epic trek to NYC for the TBC Invitational, wowing the crowd with their team spirit, advance preparation and moving personal stories about how they have improved the health of their families by cooking these dishes at home.  Laurel TBCs are vocal about new behaviors they are proud of such as drinking more water and comparing food labels when making snack choices.  Recognizing the overall youth development strengths of TBC, Sumaiya notes that her TBC students were often her biggest leaders in HealthCorps events throughout the year- doing stir fry demos in the hallway, and volunteering weekly at a soup kitchen.  Next years plans include planting a mobile garden and veteran TBCs coaching the newbies.

Kudos to Sumaiya and Molly for their many achievements with their TBC students in their first year within their full slate of responsibilities as HealthCorps coordinators.

Read what Sumaiya’s student, Jhara Ross, class of 2012, says about her TBC experience!


New Program Spotlights:

Montefiore School Health Program at Evander Campus, Bronx, New York

Photo courtesy Montefiore

This year Montefiore School Health Program ran 5 fabulous Teen Battle Chef programs in the Bronx High Schools as a part of their commitment to battle childhood obesity in the Bronx.   Recognizing the value of peer leadership and education, the former Director of the program, the beloved late Megan Charlop, conceived of Montefiore fostering youth who would be an authentic voice for change through their actions as well as their words.

Recognizing that successful youth development takes talented mentorship, we are delighted to shine a spotlight on instructor Crystal Mayo, of the  TBC program at the Evander Campus in the Bronx. As word leaked out about Teen Battle Chef at her school, demand was so intense to participate, Crystal opened two sections of the program for the three participating schools at the large campus - a Tuesday and Wednesday crew.  The two groups started on a slightly staggered schedule, which allowed the teens who finished the program first to come and coach their peers as they completed their sessions.

According to Crystal, the students loved making the recipes at home for parents and grandparents.  She observed some amazing changes in her students’ public speak abilities and their new adventurous attitude toward trying new foods.  A stickler for organization and time management, Crystal ensured her students became experts at advance planning for each step of a recipe and laying out their mis en place.  At a visit to their Final Battle, Crystal’s organizational talent with her red and yellow teams was evident.  The students expertly washed dishes and cleaned their stations as they prepped their recipes!  They presented their dishes to a crowd of friends, family, teachers, and local press!

What’s up next year at Evander? Crystal looks forward to her next group of hopeful chefs and food activists!  Teachers, administrators, and students who have been salivating at the smells wafting from the TBC classroom are anxiously waiting their turn to participate. Congratulations on a fabulous first year meeting such worthy goals around healthful eating with young people!

(Photo courtesy Montefiore)