Newark’s Future Chefs Begin Their Culinary Journey in Prekindergarten

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[Newark, NJ] In December, Pre-Kindergarten students from Camden Street Elementary School embarked on an inspiring culinary journey as they stepped into Newark Vocational High School for the district’s inaugural B4K (Before Kindergarten) Initiative Future Chefs hands-on cooking session. Future Chefs not only introduces these budding chefs to the art of cooking, but also fosters a holistic understanding of how culinary skills intertwine with literacy, writing, math, and science, setting the stage for a flavorful and educational experience.

As the prekindergarten students and their families arrived, they were greeted with a heartfelt reception orchestrated by Newark Vocational High School hospitality students. Principal Karisa DeSantis and her staff added a touch of culinary delight by serving refreshments. The gathering comprised not only Principal DeSantis and her team, but also Camden Street Elementary School Principal Samuel Garrison and staff, along with members of the Office of Early Childhood. Together, they curated an inviting ambiance, exemplifying the collaborative spirit that defined this special event.

The event kicked off with a tour of the state-of-the-art kitchen at Newark Vocational High School, where culinary students practice their skills and gain hands-on experience. The kitchen is designed like a modern restaurant, allowing hospitality students to serve the entire school community at different times of the day. Additionally, their "guests" witness meals being prepared through the large glass dividers separating the kitchen and seating area. The three and four-year-old Future Chefs and their families were in awe of the facilities.

Following the tour, the students were given tools of the culinary trade: an apron, cookie cutters, and recipe books, setting the stage for their hands-on cooking experience. Culinary Arts teacher Chef Heffner and his staff assisted them in making Rolled Vanilla Sugar Cookies. Chef Heffner described each ingredient as he placed them into the mixer, and the students were provided with rolled-out sheets of dough to cut out their cookies using their cookie cutters. They topped the cookies off with flavorful colored sugar before popping them into the oven to bake.

As the aroma of baking cookies filled the air, two volunteer students led an engaging read-aloud session to immerse the prekindergarten students in the culinary experience. The culmination of this culinary journey was met with pure joy as the freshly baked cookies emerged, bringing smiles to the faces of the young chefs. These delectable treats were carefully placed in a gift box, a heartfelt token prepared by Chef Heffner and his talented culinary students, expressing gratitude and saying 'Thank you!' for the shared moments.

"Our commitment to delivering a well-rounded education extends to providing access to impactful programs like Future Chefs. This initiative illustrates our ongoing efforts to give students the indispensable tools they need to thrive in life, starting from the foundational Pre-K level, stated Superintendent León."

"We were thrilled to have launched Future Chefs and welcomed the prekindergarten students from Camden Street Elementary School to our school," said Principal Karisa DeSantis. "Cooking is an important part of literacy, math, and science, and we're excited to be able to share our knowledge and skills with Newark's youngest learners."

Board President Hasani Council also weighed in, stating, "We believe that the B4K Initiative will help to build stronger connections between our elementary and high schools, and we're grateful to the culinary staff at Newark Vocational High School for their support and dedication to our students."

Future Chefs at Newark Vocational, is an integral component of the overarching B4K strategy, purposefully connecting Newark's prekindergarten students in elementary schools with their future high school counterparts. Thus far, the youngest learners in Newark have engaged in diverse experiences such as ballet at Arts High School, robotics at Newark School of Data Science & Technology, swimming at Science Park, and now cooking at Newark Vocational. As part of the ongoing commitment to enrichment, they are actively planning to broaden the spectrum of offerings to include sports in the near future.

About Newark Public Schools
The Newark Public Schools is the largest school district in New Jersey and dates back to 1676. The District currently enrolls over 39,000 students in 63 schools. After more than two decades of state operation and upon return to local control in 2018, the District has opened 9 new schools under Superintendent León's leadership with an additional portfolio of new options to be announced in the coming months and years. The Newark Board of Education serves as a beacon of educational excellence, dedicated to nurturing the potential of every student. With a commitment to innovation, inclusivity, and fostering a love for learning, the District continues to shape future generations and make a positive impact within the community.

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Nancy J. Deering, Acting Communications Director