Objectives: Foodie culture is all around, but what can we really do to be healthy and eat local? Visit an urban farm, get a hands=on opportunity to learn how to cook untritious meals, and learn about the life and challenges of being a chef. What’s all the hype about — are you really what you eat?

Teacher/s: Natalie and Nicole

Beau Garcia, Angelo Cedeno, Rafael Cordero, Robert Palta, Nicholas Rios, Tenzin Tseten, Nickolas Chalen, Odalys Garate, Nichole Hernandez, Avaani Minhas, Gloriana Garta, Luis Nouel, Juan Tenesaca, Estella DeLaCruz-Melo, Apshara Alam, Michelle Alvarez, Maria Ibanez

Schedule of Activities:

Monday 10/23 – City Growers Tour of Brooklyn Grange rooftop farm

Brooklyn Grange farms rooftops, builds green spaces, and promotes sustainable living and local ecology through food, education, and events. We visited their location in Long Island City, and were given a tour of the facility. First, we learned about the benefits of a rooftop farm: cleaner air, no buses or trains around, lots of sunlight because there is no obstruction, and the roof acts as a giant sponge when it comes to rainfall. We learned that this farm alone can harvest over a million gallons of water a year! There are root guards to prevent roots from growing into the building. Not as much energy is used to heat up the building because of the felt that the roots grow into. Similarly, this helps to cool the building in the summer, so a rooftop garden can be very energy efficient. Special soil is engineered for roof top gardens. A lot of fresh produce is produced at City Growers.
Bees and butterflies are attracted here, because there are a lot of bright flowers. This is very important because we need bees to pollinate plants. There are many benefits of eating locally grown fruits and vegetables. On average, our food has to travel 1,500 miles to get to us in NYC. This is a long time to travel, so farmers have to spray preservatives on that food to prevent it from rotting. Sometimes, food is picked before it’s ready to be picked. Plants get their nutrients from the soil and the sun, so if it ripens on the way over, a lot of the benefits are gone. We learned that 70-75% of the food we eat every day had to be pollinated. There are three different types of bees in a honey bee hive: the worker bees, the drone bees, and the queen bee. Drone honey bees are the males that mate with the queen bee. They make up approximately 10% of the hive. Worker bees make up 90% of the hive. The queen bee mates with 7-8 males, and releases eggs for next 3-4 years. The worker bees feed the queen special jelly. As soon as bees hatch, they’re fully grown adults, so they immediately begin their work. Each bee makes a Y shape of wax. They fit those shapes to make a hexagon. Recently, there has been an increase in colony collapse disorder, which is the phenomenon that occurs when the majority of worker bees in a colony disappear and leave behind a queen, plenty of food, and a few nurse bees to care for the remaining immature bees and the queen. Lots of bees have been abandoning their hives or job for two reasons: use of pesticides and habitat loss. This is why farms like this one are important — they create a pathway for the bees. This farm also has their own compost. They allow scraps of food to break down naturally, instead of going into a landfill. Leaves and twigs in the compost cause it to be a little more brown and to smell less bad. Farmers call it “black gold,” because of all the nutrients that are in the compost. This farm also has their own chickens, which are currently 18 weeks old and just reached maturity. They should be laying their first egg any day now! A chick lays an egg every 25 hours. Another benefit of chickens is that they eat a lot of bugs and their poop is used as fertilizer.
On Saturdays, Brooklyn Grange farms opens its doors to the community and sells their products. They also sell fruits and vegetables to restaurants that provide farm-to-table meals.

Tuesday 10/24 – DeKalb Market and Supersize Me

DeKalb Market is located in Downtown Brooklyn, and is one of the biggest food centers in New York City. The market features 40 ventures that sell fresh meals made on the spot. Our goal in visiting the market was to try new foods and to interview vendor employees about their experiences in the industry. Some of the places we tried food from include Pierogi Boys, BK JANI, Dulcinea, Wiki Wiki, and Pop Cake Shop, to name a few. We interviewed many different vendors about what their day-to-day lives look like, and we found that most of the food is locally sourced. Many vendors said they get their ingredients from local farmer’s markets and bakeries. Some of the people working in the industry had gone to culinary school, while others only did this as a second job to make extra money. The market gets really busy during lunchtime and on weekends.

Wednesday 10/25 – Natural Gourmet Institute and Cooking at TRCS

We took a tour of the Natural Gourmet Institute, located in Chelsea. It has been open for forty years. It is a small school that about 170 students pass through each year. You can obtain a Culinary Arts Certification in as little as five months, if you attend as a full time student! After four months of intensive classes, the school arranges an internship for your last month. If you would like to attend part-time, it takes about eleven months. The school is mostly vegetarian — they cook only with chicken, fish, and shellfish.
We were fortunate enough to speak with Chef Barbara, which told us about life as a student, a chef, and even a teacher! The program starts with the basics, teaching you knife skills. You learn about how food can help to heal you and how it affects your body. There are five classes that students must take solely about food choices: how do we choose it, why, what pairs best with other foods, etc. This is still like a regular school, in that students still get homework. An example of an assignment would be to go to a “healthy” store, such as Whole Foods, and find something unhealthy that they are selling and write about it. Similarly, you would go to a “unhealthy” store and find something healthy that they sell. The difference is that tests are more of a hands-on experience.
Because this is a certificate program, no college education is required. Some students come into the program straight after high school, while others are older and have decided to change their careers. There are many options for work after graduating such a program:

  • Line cook in a restaurant (example – work at the grill) – $15/hour + overtime
  • Catering – help others prepare food and take it to the event – $25/hour
  • Personal chef – menu planning, shopping, cooking, cleaning up – $300/day
  • Private chef – live with the family, travel with them, cook all meals – $100,000/year

The salaries listed about vary, of course. Some graduates of the Natural Gourmet Institute have gone on to work for famous stars such as Madonna and Kanye!

Photo-Videos/ Blogs/ Reflections/ Links/ Final Product: