June 25, 2007

Small chefs rule the school

Elementary students in the University’s culinary academy enjoy learning the fine art of food appreciation.
Elementary students in the University’s culinary academy enjoy learning the fine art of food appreciation.

The youngsters in Sacramento State’s Summer Culinary Academy will take a chicken curry entrée with a steamed tomato and oven roasted potatoes over a bowl of macaroni and cheese, thank you very much.

So say the elementary students in the University Enterprises culinary academy’s first of two eight-day class sessions, which began last week. The current session, designed for eight- to 11-year-olds, continues through June 28. The second session, tailored for 11- to 14-year-olds, will be held July 9-19. Classes are Monday through Thursday, 8:15 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Sacramento State campus.

Sacramento State’s executive chef and dining services director Ruedi Egger, along with his small charges, couldn’t be more pleased with the results of their classes.

“The questions the children ask are excellent,” the European-trained chef Egger says. “They want to know why we replace salt with spices and garlic, and that brings us to a larger discussion about making healthier eating choices.”

And his students are certainly educated about good—and bad—eating habits. After Egger asks his class how much sugar the average American eats every week, more than half the class respond eagerly, yelling out “Two and a half pounds!” Their disapproving expressions illustrate that even children know that amount is excessive.

They’re also learning how to dice onions, sauté meats and vegetables, and prepare chocolate cream desserts. Food and personal sanitation is stressed throughout the class, as well as knife and hot food safety. Each day, the students prepare a full course meal and dessert, all made with fresh food.

“We are not here to create chefs right away, because that wouldn’t be practical,” says Egger. “Rather, we want to plant the seed of culinary art appreciation.”

Spaces are still available for the July 9-19 session for students ages 11-14. The eight-day class session is $560, which includes lunch and snacks, an embroidered chef’s jacket, hat, knife, cookbook and certificate. For registration and more information, contact the Sacramento State Dining Services office at (916) 278-6376. For media assistance, contact the Sacramento State Public Affairs office at (916) 278-6156.