It Tastes Good to G.I.V.E.

Michael's assistant Ellie Groden serves up some of Manny's garden vegetable ratatouille-inspired penne with Teena's Pride heirloom tomato, bell pepper, eggplant, and basil.

Yesterday Harry’s Pizzeria chef de cuisine Manny Sulbaran, Michael’s daughters Ella and Lulu Schwartz, and Ellie and I were honored to be a mere 6 of the more than 1,300 volunteers associated with Royal Caribbean who spent their Saturday giving a little back to the South Florida community for the company’s 15th annual G.I.V.E. Day.  When the invitation was extended by Vice President of Food & Beverage Frank Weber, with whom we work on a farm-to-ship program for Oasis of the Seas, we jumped at the chance — especially knowing we’d be getting our hands dirty in kitchen!

G.I.V.E., which stands for “Get Involved Volunteer Everywhere,” is a community service event that brings together Royal Caribbean employees, their families, friends, vendors and business partners to assist non-profit organizations and improve the quality of life in their local communities. Volunteers yesterday  painted and landscaped the grounds at Booker T. Washington High School in Overtown.  What a sight when we arrived!  It was an ocean of people, thousands, all giving back to a worthy cause…  What an inspiration!

Since 2010 we have been working closely with administrators at Miami Dade County Public Schools on its Chef Partnership program and specifically working with faculty and students at Phillis Wheatley Elementary School on its school garden program and developing healthy recipes for the cafeteria. Thanks to Michael’s support as well as that of chef de cuisine Bradley Herron at MGFD and Manny when he was at MGFD and now at Harry’s, fourth and fifth graders who before couldn’t even point out an eggplant let alone want to eat one have been able to sample and enjoy dishes like ratatouille, peach and radish salad, and local pumpkin stuffing.  It’s a lesson in how great even healthy food can taste when it’s made fresh with things like vegetables they are growing in their school garden. And how a little goes along way in making a difference!  Most recently, you might remember the visit we made in the cafeteria to top pizza with Manny’s sauteed kale and bok choy!  It was this activity that Administrative Director Penny Parham of Miami Dade County Public Schools’ Food & Nutrition Department used as an example of simple ways chefs can make a impact when she addressed cafeteria managers at a training with their chef partners last month at Johnson & Wales University.  You can read about that event here on The Genuine Kitchen and see photos here.  It was also exciting to see the Miami Herald’s coverage of programs the school system is stewarding to make eating healthier a reality for students.

Frank in the trenches of Booker T. Washington's school garden, with Principal Aristide to his left.

Booker T. Washington High is a prime example of a school that is doing things right with a little help from leadership in its faculty and culinary program, and outside organizations like Slow Food Miami (responsible for installing its raised garden beds) and Royal Caribbean.  You may remember that Booker T. Washington’s culinary students, under Dr. Anthony Jennings, create a yearly Overtown Cookbook with recipes sourced from the community.  It was a great tool for us to both attract customers and help promote the launch of the Roots in the City Farmers Market in Overtown in 2010.  (Booker T. is also the high school into which Phillis Wheatley feeds — the connections are many.)

Manny led a demonstration for the culinary students in their kitchen classroom yesterday of two dishes inspired by the fresh ingredients that volunteers, including Frank with the dirt to prove it (!), planted in the school garden for next season.  First up was a bright arugula and heirloom tomato salad with lemon-parmesan dressing, followed by sweet-as-can-be sauteed striped eggplant penne with red bell peppers, caramelized onions and basil.

A fun, educational time was had by all!  Visit our Flickr set to see behind the scenes photos from what was a great day of cleaned plates and full hearts.

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