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Meet Ashley Tam

May 24, 2018

Every year, Growing Chefs! is fortunate enough to have UBC students that are studying to become teachers join us in the classroom to assist with our classroom gardening and cooking program. This May we were joined by some amazing teaching students, including Ashley Tam who wrote about her experience with Growing Chefs!:

32104549_10157383943633135_222612806401261568_nAs a current UBC student in the Faculty of Education and a previous aspiring chef/baker, working with Growing Chefs! has been like a dream come true. All my visions have become realized through each lesson and new classroom that I’ve visited. This experience has been the perfect marriage of education and food. Working with students is a privilege and an honour. Having the ability to influence their world in a positive way for even an hour each week is truly special. It is especially rewarding seeing their happy and excited faces each time they see us enter their classroom. For myself, it is even more rewarding because I get to share a passion and love of mine with them each visit. We get to talk and learn about food every lesson and I find that even I get the chance to learn something new every once in a while. Especially since I work with a group of diverse and knowledgeable volunteers, each of whom brings their own experiences and strengths to the team. I honestly wish every day of my life could be filled with as much joy as I’ve experienced with Growing Chefs!.

After our first day in orientation, I already knew how much fun this opportunity was going to be. The work we do is constantly hands-on and experiential, which is something as a teacher, I strive to master. I’ve learned a lot about education and students through this experience.

I feel like I’ve been given the opportunity to hone my classroom management and directional skills through this, but I’ve also developed my collaborative teaching skills working with various teams. I’ve learned so much about myself and my teaching style and I feel like I’ve become a better teacher, listener and learner working with Growing Chefs!. Working in a team has also been a true delight and I’ve discovered I really enjoy co-teaching and so I hope to incorporate some of that into my future endeavours in education.


However, the best experience by far has been meeting all the students at each school. They have provided my days with true purpose. I always leave each lesson with a smile that spans ear to ear because of the sweet, intelligent and charismatic children I get the pleasure of working with. They never cease to amaze me with their knowledge, curiosity and engagement. They love the program and it brings me great joy knowing that each lesson I can provide excitement and happiness to them. Their faces truly light up when they see us walk in with our fancy chef whites.

If I could make this volunteer experience a full-time profession, I would. I love what I do here with Growing Chefs! and I know that anyone fortunate enough to embark on this experience will leave the program full of new experiences and ultimately changed by the children that we get to serve.


Food Memories

May 13, 2018

Written by: Afton Bell


When I go visit my mom I often request my favourite dish from my childhood, “Porcupine Meatballs”. To make Porcupine Meatballs you mix uncooked rice with ground meat and seasoning, form meatballs and then bake in tomato sauce. The cooked rice pokes out of the meatballs so that they look a bit like little porcupines taking a bath in tomato sauce. While this dish is far from sophisticated (and lacks vegetables) it is really yummy and reminds me of my childhood. I’m not sure why this dish sticks in my brain, I don’t recall if we ate it often and it wasn’t something we ate on special occasions, but I remember eating it and it reminds me of my mom. I like to call this a “mom food memory”. The most memorable thing about this dish is that my mom made it, and everyone knows that food made by mom (or dad or grandma or auntie…) is special because they made it for YOU. There is something about having another person cook for (or with you) that makes you feel loved.


Now that I’m a mom myself I often wonder what “mom food memories” are forming in my daughter’s brain. At age five she says that I make a phenomenal bowl of noodles with butter (her all-time favourite meal). While I hope she will remember the time I spend making her balanced, healthy and nutritious meals or special homemade treats, I know that whatever sticks in her brain (at this point butter and noodles) will make her feel loved too.

Whatever you do to celebrate Mother’s Day this year, it will likely include food, so whether you are going out to brunch or making your mom’s special recipe for pie (or maybe in true mom fashion she’s making it for you) make sure to celebrate all the “mom food memories” that bring us together.

Food memories are strong, and last year, psychologists explained why. Now it’s YOUR turn. What food reminds you of your mom? Please comment below so we can all celebrate the “mom food memory” love.

Emilie: Vegetable-Forward & Fabulous!

March 22, 2018

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Our Growing Chefs! Classroom Gardening & Cooking Program is entirely delivered by volunteers. This year we will rely on upwards of 200 volunteers to get over 1,400 B.C. kids excited about growing, harvesting, cooking, and eating vegetables! Emilie is one of those volunteers, returning for a second year.


Thank you so much for volunteering Emilie. How did you hear about us?
I heard about Growing Chefs! through the Program Manager, Amanda, by taking the Environmental Education and Communication program at Royal Roads together and thought it sounded fun!


When you’re not in the classroom role of “Chef Emilie”, what are you up to?
In my work, I encourage more sustainable behaviours in peoples’ everyday lives around
things like energy and waste. Food choices are another really important area when
individual actions have a significant impact on the environment. I love that this program
teaches kids that growing a garden is actually pretty easy and it encourages them to eat
more fruits and vegetables. Reducing food miles and reducing packaging from processed
foods are important actions everyone can take to have a positive impact on the environment – and be healthier for it!

I’m really passionate about eating healthy and I love to cook. I eat everything but I like to
think of myself as “vegetable-forward” (huh – I just Googled that, turns out it’s a thing!). I find the simplest way to eat healthy is to incorporate as many colours as possible, eat in season, and buy local.

I’ve always loved trying new recipes and I’ve learned that experimenting with new
ingredients is usually very rewarding. Growing Chefs! is a great opportunity to share this
passion with kids and get them excited about eating colourful fruits and vegetables and
learning how they grow.

What about Growing Chefs! makes you return as a volunteer?
My team was placed in a Grade 3 class my first year and I loved how engaged the kids
were with the lessons. They really enjoyed learning about growing a garden and tasting new vegetables. It was wonderful to see their taste buds develop an appreciation for things they might not have ever tried before – or try them in a different way. The lessons are very tactile so the kids get to help plant the seeds, learn some kitchen skills, and even decorate their own veggie “muppet”. Basically, it’s just really fun to be with them and talk all things veggie, garden and cooking related which is why I came back for my second year!

If someone is on the fence about volunteering, what would you say to them?
I would say go for it! It’s super rewarding and inspiring to be surrounded by kids who are excited to learn new things and also want to share their experience or family recipes. The kids were very appreciative of our visits to their class and the Thank You cards our team received was icing on the cake. Check out the card made by Annika, a grade 3 student, that has chef hats on the ladybugs! She said she love the salad we made and thought it was “scrumptious”!

Sign up to volunteer for Growing Chefs! today.

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2018 Spring Program Update: Preparing to get growing!

March 22, 2018

It may be spring break for schools but at Growing Chefs! it is the busiest time of the year as we prepare to begin our Classroom Gardening and Cooking Program in elementary schools across Metro Vancouver and Victoria this April.

This year we have nearly 200 volunteers that we have been getting ready to go out to our participating schools where they will teach kids about gardening and cooking. We have spent the past couple months meeting and training this amazing group of individuals and having a lot of fun in the process. Our volunteer orientations had our new volunteers singing and laughing and ready to get into those classrooms.


Growing Chefs! orientation was amazing. Working together to impact these little humans lives for their futures is very natural with the system they have developed. Speaking in large groups so openly isn’t my norm, but somehow I was able to get everyone together to sing a little song like a pro! Sprinkle Sprinkle little rain, water flowing down the drain. Looking forward to the coming weeks and empowering these kiddos to try vegetables they may have never even heard of before!”
– April Pastry Chef Earnest Ice Cream

There’s still time for you to join us, as we are still looking for and training volunteers before our program start, so if you re interested in joining our team sign up online today and we will be in touch.

The next step in our preparation involves put together our classroom teams and scheduling all those volunteers in nearly 50 different locations. No small feat but our staff and their extensive supply of post-it notes have been up to the task of solving this jigsaw puzzle schedule!

We have also been getting all of our classroom gardening and cooking kits ready so that our schools have everything they need to get growing and cooking some healthy meals right in the classroom. Huge thank you to Gardenworks, West Coast Seeds, Pacific Restaurant Supply and Russell Hendrix for helping us with all the materials we need.

Our program team has been putting their Tetris skills to the test packing up all of our supplies into 50 compact and tidy classroom kits, ready to be sent out to our schools.


We are incredibly grateful to our volunteers who help us get all these materials to where they need to go and this year even had some extra special help from a team of volunteers from the Apple Store at Pacific Centre. They spent the day loading up soil and driving about the city delivering many of our classroom kits for us.


With March coming to a close, we are very excited to get started in the classroom and are so appreciative of all the folks that have helped us prepare for our program start.

If you want to get involved with our spring program this year visit our website or send us an email at We’d love to have you join the team and inspire the next generation of farmers and chefs!


The Three Sisters: An Intro to Companion Planting

March 21, 2018

Written by: Derrian Mulligan

When designing a garden, an important thing to keep in mind is how the plants will get along together. For example, peppermint is a wonderfully versatile herb, but it can strangle other plants with its rapid and unpredictable underground growth. Many gardeners have found this out the hard way! With a little knowledge and planning, you can not only avoid problems like this but actually have your plants support each other. Strategically using the growth characteristics of each plant in a given space is called companion planting, and has been practiced for millennia.

The Haudenosaunee (or Iroquois) peoples, specifically the Cayuga, Onondaga, Seneca, Mohawk, and Oneida nations, referred to the combination of corn, beans, and squash as The Three Sisters since they’re strongest when grown together. Although the Haudenosaunee are the best-known cultivators of The Three Sisters, this winning combination has been grown all around Turtle Island (also known as North America) since time immemorial.


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The name “Three Sisters” recognizes a mutually-sustainable relationship between these crops, making them a great place to start when coming to the concept of companion planting. There are many, many variations of The Three Sisters, but we’re going to be looking at the classic combination that has fed people for thousands of years: flint corn, pole beans, and pumpkins. For the sake of brevity, this post will talk mostly about flint corn.

But before we start getting into the details of doing it yourself, let’s talk about how plants can support each other. In conventional Western farming, plants are generally grouped together by type and planted in straight, even rows: a row of corn, a row of beans with lattices, and a row of squash, ideally with the individual plants separated enough that they won’t really touch as they grow. This method of farming feeds tonnes of people through our grocery stores, so why not try it at home?

One very good reason is that, besides commercial farmers, few people have access to enough land to feed themselves with that kind of design. If you have a backyard garden or a plot in a community garden, you’ll have very little to show at the end of the growing season! So one alternative is to create a vertical garden. Unlike farming in straight rows, vertical gardening makes more efficient use of small parcels of land, yielding more calories per square foot. The most beautiful, nutritionally diverse example of this is the food forest.


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That’s where our corn comes in. Corn is a good staple crop that’s full of calories and carbohydrates, just like rice or wheat. Unlike rice and wheat, it has tall, thick stalks that can support beans. This means that you don’t need to take up space with trellises to support them. These two plants alone qualify as a mini vertical garden.

The beans are very helpful to the corn, too. Beans, like all legumes, are natural nitrogen-fixers, meaning they do the work of fertilizers. It’s hard for most plants to get nitrogen, but it’s a key ingredient in chlorophyll, the compound responsible for photosynthesis. So when you grow legumes, the plants nearby get a dose of the good stuff!  The nitrogen aids in the production of amino acids, and therefore protein, in the beans. Corn is lacking in these nutrients, which is why the beans help round out meals.


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Finally, pumpkins help the other two Sisters by providing a ground cover. Plants love carbon, but it often escapes into the air, especially if the ground is disturbed by tilling. Planting crops that grow across the ground makes tilling impractical once they start covering the soil, but also unnecessary, especially if you’ve done sheet mulching. These cover crops keep carbon in your soil. They also stop weeds from growing by taking up that valuable real estate themselves. Too much carbon in the soil can lead to a nitrogen deficiency, which causes plants to turn pale and yellow. The beans create the perfect balance by adding nitrogen to the soil.

Cover crops also discourage something called soil compaction, which is when the soil gets too packed down for root systems or water to get through. Since you won’t be walking on those spots, the pumpkin’s roots can break up the soil, and its leaves can cover the soil and keep it nice and moist, so you don’t have to worry about that. With sheet mulching and an absence of compaction, tilling is totally unnecessary.

Like many colorful vegetables, pumpkins round out the nutritional value of your corn and bean dishes with their high vitamin content. The three plants are so well-balanced, in fact, that prior to colonization the Haudenosaunee were able to live off of a largely plant-based diet. That was really important because foraging can be tricky, especially with wildlife competing for foods like berries, and sometimes hunting for enough meat to feed a village can be near impossible. Their sustainable farming practices meant they had reliable access to enough food to satisfy their caloric needs and ensure that they were never malnourished, either. Pretty amazing!


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Now, the type of corn you choose to plant will really affect how your squash grows. That’s because some corn varieties like lots of water, but it can lead to mold on your squash. Try planting a corn that doesn’t need much water, like flint corn (also called Indian corn). You may have seen this in many autumnal centrepieces, which is why it’s sometimes called decorative corn. But, just as many lovely flowers are also edible, this corn is more than just easy on the eyes. It’s been a dietary staple for almost as long as humans have lived on this continent!

If you’ve handled flint corn before, you probably know that it’s as hard as flint. But that doesn’t mean you can’t eat it; just that you probably won’t want to throw it on the barbeque and eat it off the cob like its water-loving cousin, sweet corn. While your backyard chickens will gobble it up, you can eat flint corn in a number of ways, too. If you have access to a something like a Vitamix, you can grind the dried kernels into grits or corn flour and go from there. For those of us without access to such appliances, there’s a cheap and fun alternative: POPCORN!


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First, you need to shuck the corn, which means removing the silk and leaves, or husks, of the corn. Save the husks if you want to make corn dolls out of them. Corn dolls, not to be confused with those made from wheat by Europeans, are a Haudenosaunee tradition borne of the legend of the Sisters. In this story, the benevolent Corn Spirit was so willing to help humanity that, in addition to feeding us, she used her husks to create a doll to make children happy. Making them is still a great way to reuse inedible parts of the corn, plus it keeps kids’ hands busy!

Once your corn is shucked, pull the kernels off the cobs and place them in a bowl. If it’s too tedious for you, try putting on a podcast or talking to a friend to occupy your attention while you work. Wash the kernels in a strainer, then spread them evenly on a towel. Let them dry out until they feel like popping corn — and that’s what you have! At this point, you can grind them up or pop them.


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Take a few tablespoons of kernels and a tablespoon of fat of your choice: butter, olive oil, whatever floats your boat. Mix in spices if desired, like salt or chili powder. Start with pinches of each, then adjust to taste in future batches. Place the mixture in a brown paper lunch bag, roll the top down a couple of times, and stick it in your microwave. You can also cook them in a pot on the stove, although it takes a little longer — instead of just figuring out the right settings once, you’ll need to babysit the pot each time.

You can go ahead and put the microwave on the popcorn setting, but keep in mind that each microwave is different and this isn’t a bag of popcorn from the supermarket. You may want to start with sixty seconds, check the bag, and go from there. When the popping slows down, you’re getting close to burning territory — beware! And that’s all it takes to grow and cook your own popcorn — a snack you can feel really good about.


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There you have it! A nutritious, low-maintenance, low-water vertical garden that’s a slice of history. Not only can you feed yourself and your loved ones with this form of companion planting, you can also connect to this land’s history. Like all the tips on this blog, feel free to experiment, do your own research, and share it with other gardening enthusiasts. Half the fun of gardening and cooking is making connections with other people and the land you’re on.

We really encourage you to read more about the traditional ecological knowledge maintained by the Indigenous peoples of Turtle Island today if you’re not already familiar with it. There’s a lot of very useful information out there that you can apply to your own adventures in cultivation. From there, you can start to think about other benefits of looking back in time: were these “weeds” once considered medicine? How were everyday objects made before the advent of plastics? How did people process waste before curbside pickup? And so on.

Indigenous knowledge has many answers to some of the pressing questions of our times, whether it’s how to design your garden or how to live lightly on the earth. There are many ways to access this knowledge, like visiting the c̓əsnaʔəm exhibit. Whatever way you choose to connect with the land, its history, and its stewards, remember to have fun with it!

Let’s Taco ‘Bout Tacofino!

March 20, 2018


It’s Taco Tuesday so not only is it the perfect day to eat tacos, but it’s the perfect day to taco ’bout our newest Adopt A Classroom supporter, Tacofino! Tacofino is adopting a grade 2 classroom at Xpey’ Elementary, which means they’ve donated $4,000 to Growing Chefs! to cover costs associated with delivering our Classroom Gardening & Cooking Program to kids in this classroom.

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE! Tacofino is also providing the volunteers to deliver the program in this classroom! Included on that team is Gino Di Domenico, Managing Partner, who has been working at Tacofino for “5 happy years”:

Tacofino (10 of 190)

Hi Gino, when did you first hear about us?
I first heard about Growing Chefs! in my first year with Tacofino. I started out as the General Manager at the Tacofino Commissary on Hastings where our Truck Operations Manager at the time – Stuart Whyte, was participating in the program.

What about Growing Chefs! resonates with the Tacofino team?
Teaching healthy, sustainable food practices to children is a lesson that can be learned for life. Whether it be used to sustain and nourish yourself or your family, as a hobby, or made into a career, the idea of a future filled with food inspired humans is very exciting.

You’re going to be volunteering in the classroom this year. AMAZING! What are you most excited about? Are you nervous at all?I am actually really excited to be in a classroom again. A little-known fact about me is that before my restaurant career, I was teaching elementary school just outside Montreal where I grew up. So only a little nervous….

What’s your favourite item on the Tacofino menu?
It’s an oldie but a goodie. I’m a huge fan of the bean and cheese burrito at The Commissary on Hastings.

Can you share anything about Tacofino that may surprise our readers?
Our love for cooking and trying new things comes through on our menus. One thing that most people are surprised to learn is that all of our locations have fairly different menus.

Thank you so much Gino, and thank you Tacofino for yo

ur generosity! See you in the classroom!

For more information about how your company or restaurant can support Growing Chefs! visit or contact


Women of Growing Chefs!

March 8, 2018

international-womens-day-2018On International Women’s Day, women across the globe come together to celebrate the social, economic, cultural, and political achievement of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity. International Women’s Day has been celebrated for more than 100 years, all starting with the suffragettes in the early 1900s fighting for women’s right to vote. Here at Growing Chefs!, we are lucky to have hundreds of women that help make our classroom gardening and cooking program a success. And we would love to introduce you to 10 of the impactful women we are happy to call a part of our community.


Merri Schwartz
A true culinary trailblazer, Merri founded Growing Chefs! in 2005 to connect chefs and growers and their knowledge to their communities, and she continues to lead us as President of our Board of Directors. Merri is currently a Pastry Chef at Bald Face Lodge in Nelson, BC.

Helen Stortini
Helen is the Executive Director at Growing Chefs! She possesses a deep passion for sustainable eating and urban gardening. She believes that providing children an opportunity to connect to their food is the best way to excite and empower them about healthy food and healthy food systems.

Les Dames D’escoffier
Les Dames D’escoffier is a society of women involved in the food, wine, and hospitality industries. Their mission is to support upcoming women in the culinary arts professions and educate the public. Many Dames have volunteered in the Growing Chefs! program, and the organization is an annual Adopt A Classroom supporter.

Linda Olson
Linda is the Executive Sous Chef at Culinary Capers Catering, and is one of our long-time classroom volunteers – volunteering with Growing Chefs! Since 2007.

Valdine Ciwko
Valdine is one of our classroom teachers, a committee member, and a former board member. Valdine is a passionate member of our community and helps us review and develop our Classroom Garden and Cooking curriculum. We’re lucky to have her creativity and enthusiasm.

Kristyna Vogel
Kristyna is Fairmont Waterfronts’ Marketing & PR Manager and a huge community champion for Growing Chefs! She does whatever she can to bring amazing volunteers into our program, and support our work.

Earnest Ice Cream
We’re thrilled to have an all-female volunteer team from Earnest Ice Cream in one of Growing Chefs! classrooms this spring. Led by their Operations Manager (also a Pastry Chef) we can’t wait to see how they bring their local and seasonal values into our program!

Andrea Carlson
Andrea is Chef and Owner of Burdock & Co. and Harvest Community Foods. She is one of our founding volunteers, a former board member, and a current member of our Board of Alumni & Advisors. Andrea is one of Vancouver’s most influential Chefs and continues to foster a close connection to the food we eat.

Selma van Halder
Selma is our resident chef and the founder of Fare Kitchen Literacy. At Fare Kitchen Literacy, she teaches kitchen literacy skills and meaningful connection to our food. Selma is our Program Coordinator here at Growing Chefs! where she helps with all aspects of our classroom gardening and cooking program.

Olivia Sari-Goerlach
Olivia is a Vancouver-based professional photographer at OSG Photography. She specializes in portraiture, documentary, food photography, and food styling. Olivia is a Growing Chefs! volunteer photographer and takes many of our beautiful photos.

These are just a handful of the hundreds of amazing women that help make an impact on Growing Chefs! and we want to celebrate every single one! Thank you to all women making an impact on their local food systems and in their communities.





Say CHEESE! Vegan Cheese Shop Opening Soon

February 6, 2018

IMG_8124-2 (1)When you work for an organization like Growing Chefs! you get to spend time with the most amazing people! Enter Chef Karen McAthy of Blue Heron Creamery, one of our supporters and volunteers. She’s got some awesome news to share, and we were lucky to get the inside scoop.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

This is the hardest of all the questions to answer. I am a nerd, who likes to understand how things work, and have had the opportunity to do that as a chef for the last 7 years, and in cooking more generally for longer. I have been very fortunate to be able to have my career evolve along with my personal ethical choices, and have been focused on plant-based, vegan cuisine, and cooking methods for the past several years.

Working in the food industry was, for the longest time, only something I was doing until I planned to do my pH.D. But, in truth, I have been growing and cooking food and interested in doing things with food and feeding people for as long as I can remember. I never did the pH.D, and am not sure I regret that. I love being in the woods, or along the coastline, and if I have any opportunity to do things that take me to those spaces, I am eager to jump on those. I grew up on a tiny island, Cormorant Island (Alert Bay), and so, the ocean and all the diversity of life that lives along the coast are near and dear, all the time.

Colin, my business partner, was a regular guest of mine, while I was the executive chef at Graze, and he used to come in with his wife. Together they had a company called Feed Life, (which he still has), a nutrition and wellness company, and I had done a few recipes for one of their holiday e-books featuring local plant-based chefs and recipe developers. Sadly, his wife passed, but Colin has maintained his interest in plant-based wellness, and we reconnected in early 2016, and this has evolved into both a strong business partnership and a great friendship.

Colin is a firefighter with the Richmond fire dept, and the co-author of the Juice Truck book, a musician, and herbalist, and brings the light, and faith and belief to my intensity, drive and well, probably, oddballness.

BHwindowAndreTell us about Blue Heron Cheese.

downloadIn 2014, I was approached by an editor from New Society Publishing at RIPE (the YLFMS annual fundraiser), and in the midst of the busy evening was asked if I might be interested in writing a book about plant-based cheesemaking. While Graze closed in 2015, I continued my research and development in writing the manuscript, and the book was published in May of 2017: The Art of Plant-Based Cheese Making.

After Graze I moved to another chef post at a different vegan restaurant, and it became clear by early 2016 that interest in what I was doing was not abating (vegan cheeses!), and that I wanted to give more focus to it. So, the name Blue Heron popped into my head (I’ve always found myself drawn to herons, and I have a tattoo of one I got many years ago). Herons are intentional, they maintain focus for long periods of time, they can interact socially when necessary, but also are solitary. I love watching their elegant, precise movements at Spanish Banks.

I reconnected with Colin, and we had the support, help, and effort from two others, Eden and Zoe, who are both incredible forces in what they do (Eden runs the kitchen at Eternal Abundance, Zoe is a force with Music Heals and a member of the Vegan Project).

Eventually, Colin and I got ourselves sorted into the current formal business of Blue Heron, and after a year-long r &d process of refining methods and recipes and approaches, we are now in the position of opening a modest storefront in East Van.

Tell us about the new shop you are opening in Vancouver at 2410 Main St.

The shop is a bit of an accident. We were initially looking just for a larger, secluded production site, but then this opportunity arose. We get to be next door to another great vegan, plant-based business, Friendly Snackbar and have had such great support from Lisa (Wallflower Diner), and now we are opening a shop.

We’re excited about the new branding developed for us by graphic designer, Dima Yagnyuk, of The Graphic Design Studio, feel like the new direction is well suited to some of our longer-term goals for evolving Blue Heron.


The storefront is small and intimate, and we were very hands-on in the finishing. I and my tattoo artist/best friend, Ciara (Sticks and Stones Tattoo Studio) did the illustration art on the feature wall, and I designed and built the front counter table (with the build really being guided by Brad of Biota Fermentation), and we’ve been building our own sandwich boards etc. 

The shop will focus on selling our cultured, young and aged vegan cheeses, yogurts, sour cream, butter (both cultured and not), preserves that we make, and fermented goods from our producer friends, such as Biota, Hoochy Booch, etc.

Why do you think organizations like Growing Chefs! that teach kids about growing and cooking their own food are important?

I grew up in Alert Bay, and with parents both from agricultural backgrounds, we always had a vegetable garden at home. The elementary school also had a garden, and so I grew up with this focus on knowing where your food comes from. Our early teachers and elders in the community always emphasized the importance of caring for the land and the sea, and our impact as humans on the environment.

I think what Growing Chefs! is doing is critical for urban environments, where it is so incredibly easy to become disassociated from how food is grown, produced, altered, etc. Knowing how to grow and cook food, connects you to the idea of land stewardship, and to self-care and knowing how to feed yourself. At every opportunity through the process, there is an opportunity to learn self-reliance, responsibility for the spaces we live in, and a sense of connection to each other.

What advice would you give to a child who is interested in becoming a chef?

It is not like it seems on tv shows. Be willing to learn, be willing work hard, be willing to commit yourself, acknowledge that mistakes will be made, that perfection doesn’t exist even if it is a goal, that amazing things can sometimes happen from mistakes.

Make caring about the food system part of your thinking as a chef. Food security for all people and reducing food waste are no longer things that should be separate from one’s participation in their career as a chef. And because, it is still the best part, learn, learn, learn, explore, explore, explore!

Seeking Eggs… or Chickens…whichever you think came first!

February 1, 2018

Have you ever pondered the old question,
which came first: the chicken or the egg? At the Growing Chefs! office this question is quoted often, as we work to bring our Classroom Gardening and Cooking Programs to more kids in more communities.

The Growing Chefs! Classroom Gardening and Cooking Program started in 2005 with two classrooms. Last year, we brought the program to 49 classrooms in B.C., and this year we plan to be in nearly 60 classrooms in the province!

Growing Chefs! pairs chef and community volunteers with elementary school classrooms. As our programs are 100% delivered by these incredible volunteers, the number of volunteers we recruit and train directly determines the number of kids we are able to engage in hands-on learning about healthy food and food systems.


Photo credit: OSG Photography

As the program grows geographically we find ourselves in a bit of a conundrum: do we first recruit the volunteers that are essential to run the programs, or do we sign-up classrooms and then work to recruit volunteers in that community?

Working in more communities means that we are looking for both volunteers and classrooms that call those communities home. We are starting by spreading the word through our network of chefs and supporters and we are confident that as we continue to work we will build local volunteer networks and grow vibrant programs in these communities.

We know that just as there is no shortage of amazing kids that would benefit from Growing Chefs! Programs, there is also no shortage of passionate, skilled people that want to contribute.

Photo credit: OSG Photography

We don’t know if the chicken or egg came first, but we do know that we are excited and ready to engage both new volunteers and classrooms (in whichever order they arrive) this Spring. Training to become part of a 
Growing Chefs!’ volunteer team begins this month and requires only a short commitment of four hours a month for three months.  If you (or some you know) is passionate about the work we do and calls Metro Vancouver or Victoria home we would love to a receive a volunteer application from you. If you would like to have the Growing Chefs! program in your school, ask your teacher or administrator to contact our program manager or fill out the online application.

Who We are Looking For: IMG_7246
Passionate Community Members
Pastry Chefs
Food enthusiasts of all kinds!

Communities We Currently Work in:
North Vancouver
New West

A Growing Team at Growing Chefs! Introducing Alan Chen

January 31, 2018

This January, Growing Chefs! welcomed three new Program/Volunteer Liaisons to our team. We’re thrilled to introduce you to Alan Chen. Welcome, Alan!

180108_Alan Headshot_D6C_4050

“Hello! My name’s Alan, and I’m excited to join Growing Chefs! as one of their three new Program Liaisons this spring season.

The Growing Chefs! Program lies at the sunny intersection of a few personal passions, three of which include sustainability, cooking, and social change work. My cheeks glow pink for each of these topics on their own terms, but to have the opportunity to work on all three at the same time is another kind of thrill altogether.

What is it that excites me? Well, I’m particularly pumped about how Growing Chefs! changes everything about healthy eating for kids (and by everything, I mean just one thing) – they’re given a paradigm shift. When kids look at salad or broccoli at home, they see a test or an obstacle. In classrooms with Growing Chefs!, every seed, leaf, and root is an opportunity to discover something new on their own terms. There’s little pressure and no judgement, only shared excitement between kids and adults alike.

We get to turn their classrooms into a playground, with the vegetables as their toys and our chefs as their role models. By nurturing their agency to take ownership of a healthier lifestyle, we’re planting the seeds for an important culture-shift. In a world saturated with junk food, consumerist media, and a culture of convenience, priming the hearts and minds of a younger generation with a certain sense of clarity is an inspiring initiative that I feel lucky to be contributing to.

In the brief 23 years I’ve spent learning, I’ve had the privilege of doing so in the company of many compassionate individuals from various change-making communities. Growing Chefs! is one such community that I look forward to growing with and learning from over this next spring season.”


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