2014 AFWA Grant Winner: Fresh Chefs Society

Fresh Chefs Society apprentices Robert Larson, Nicole Craine, Daetrion White

Late last year, the Austin Food & Wine Alliance announced their 2014 grant winnersNew Farm Institute at Green Gate Farms, Springdale Center for Urban Agriculture, Fresh Chefs Society, Growers Alliance of Central Texas (GroACT) and Anjore. To highlight the many sides of Austin’s flourishing food community, we’re showcasing the exciting efforts from each of these wonderful organizations.

Last week we featured the Springdale Center for Urban Agriculture at Springdale Farm, and this week we catch up with Fresh Chefs Society to find out how they’re teaching Austin-area youth about the local food movement.

Austin Food + Wine Festival: You’ve coined the term, “eating lifestyle.” How does Fresh Chefs Society work to help foster care youth define and shape their eating lifestyles?

Fresh Chefs Society teaches youth to nurture oneself with food, control a small but important aspect of independent living, and become knowledgeable on how to shop and cook. We help youth define their eating lifestyle in a way that is representative of them, either culturally or on a more basic level, based simply on what they like to eat.

The premise behind everything we do is that if we give them the tools, it will increase the likelihood that they will cook for themselves.

How does Fresh Chefs Society help youth gain greater knowledge of the local food movement?

By exposing youth to what exists in our Austin food community, we are a vehicle for youth to access new restaurants, grocers, and other food resources. Each time we cook with a youth, our goal is to expand their palate and knowledge of the resources they have at their fingertips.

We use produce, meats, and other staples from local farms and community food artisans, which provides a connection to local business. One of the best ways to give the youth we work with hands-on experience is by taking them shopping to give them a foundation to access the vast food system that surrounds them on their own.

What are the most significant ways that students and apprentices utilize the tools they learn from their time in the program? 

Through our programs, apprentices have been able to maintain relationships with chefs and caterers that have led to employment opportunities. Perhaps the most significant takeaway is that after cooking with Fresh Chefs Society, our youth are empowered to cook on their own.

How will the funds from the AFWA grant benefit the nature of the Fresh Chefs Society programs and chef apprenticeships?

The AFWA funds our iCook Programs, which are hands-on interactive cooking classes and events. The grant has allowed us to increase our capacity to reach more youth, more frequently. Fresh Chefs Society will also be purchasing additional cooking equipment to meet the increased demand for the services we provide. All of this would not have been possible without AFWA support.

#freshchefs Eggs Cooking Class with Chef Alex Gates is eggscellent!

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As the beneficiary of the Austin Food & Wine Festival, the Austin Food & Wine Alliance (AFWA) relies on a portion of festival proceeds to support its culinary grant program, educational programming, fundraising events and operations. As a 501c3 nonprofit, the AFWA hosts signature fundraising events like Official Drink of Austin, Live Fire!, Great Austin Food Race, Wine & Swine and more. In addition, the Alliance is committed to inspiring and supporting high school culinary students from all over Central Texas by hosting the annual Culinary Arts Career Conference with more than 600 students being able to attend at no cost.