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Salam lovely Golestan Community!

To kick off the Kitchen Blog I wanted to start by reintroducing myself, our kitchen, and our food mission at Golestan.

When I first saw the job posting for the Golestan Chef position I may have actually jumped out of my chair with giddiness. A job where I could cook real, healthy food, garden, work with children, and be surrounded by languages all day? What a dream!

I grew up in Indiana and, as a kid, no element of this job was on my career radar. My mother would garden in spurts. One year on, three years off. It definitely never felt like a hub of our life or a reliable food source. Kids in the midwest when I was growing up were raised on food that was frozen, fast, or filled with dyes, flavorings, and preservatives. Don’t even ask about the vegetables. And believe it or not, Indiana isn’t a hotbed for cultural diversity so my cultural and multi-lingual exposure was confined to my reading. Luckily I read a lot.

In college I studied French, Spanish, and Arabic and taught myself how to cook. After graduating and moving to California I began in-home tutoring services for low-income families in East Oakland. I spent hours every week in many families’ homes. Families from Mexico, Yemen, Burma, Taiwan: all over the world. I fell in love with this hyper-diverse community and I started to get involved with some amazing organizations like City Slicker Farms, The International Rescue Committee’s New Roots Program, and I volunteered weekly as an assistant garden teacher at an elementary school in East Oakland. All around me I saw evidence of California’s food movement that is now echoing across the world: food should be fresh, nutritious, affordable, and a topic for education.

I started to connect the dots between my passions for languages, food, education, and community-building. I attended culinary school at San Francisco Cooking School with the intention of using my culinary education to work with families and children rather than at restaurants. During this time I worked at Bartavelle Cafe in Berkeley and I completed my culinary externship at Haven in Oakland.

Anybody familiar with Golestan’s food mission will understand why this job is so special. I believe strongly in cooking with locally sourced, seasonal fruits, vegetables, and herbs. I also believe that homemade crackers, breads, and baked goods are sooo much tastier and free of the sneaky sugars and preservatives hidden in store-bought brands. I think that most of our meals should be vegetarian and hearty enough to get us through our busy day, but when we eat meat it should be bought from somewhere with transparent business practices, that respects the environment, the health of its animals, and the health of its consumers. I believe that the healthiest, most delicious, and most special food we eat is at home, with our friends and families. These are the same standards and beliefs that Golestan has set as central tenants of its overall mission.

When preparing food at Golestan I strive to challenge the kids to try and love new foods. More than anything I think that diversity in a diet is the most important guideline. Every new food we introduce into our school repertoire means different vitamins and nutrients fueling growing bodies, plus it builds a foundation for our kids to be open-minded, healthy eaters for the rest of their lives. I have MANY thoughts and methods for introducing new foods so that will probably need its own blog post, but I will assert that it is possible to make nutritious, well-balanced meals that are delicious to both kids and adults.

What does all of this look like on a day-to-day basis? That is the mission of this blog! I want to share pictures of our meals, recipes, and tips about seasonal produce or ingredients that the kids are loving!

I feel so lucky (as you probably do too!) to be a part of a school that is setting a higher standard for nutrition and wellness for our children. Look out for updates on the blog, and please visit me in the kitchen or e-mail me if you have any questions or any topics you want me to address here. This is YOUR resource and I can’t wait to share what we’ve been up to!

Love from the kitchen,

Tessa

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