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A Recipe for Impact – 2017/2018 School Year Report

November 2, 2018

End of Year Report 2018 - Title

At Growing Chefs! CHEFS teach kids to GROW, COOK, and EAT HEALTHY, JUST, SUSTAINABLE FOOD. Why do we do it?  Because too many kids (and grown-ups!) don’t know how important food is to our bodies, our community, and our planet. Too many kids aren’t excited to make nutritious choices, don’t know how or where food is grown, or have access to healthy, fresh, whole foods. We’re on a mission to change that!

We want to

Too often, when we ask kids where their food comes from, they say “the grocery store!” Or when we offer a student a new vegetable to try, they say “No way! I’m allergic!” Growing Chefs! works to change this. By connecting kids and chefs, we get kids to think differently about food. Suddenly that kale isn’t so yucky after all. In our programs, kids are hands-on with the entire food cycle from seed to plate to compost–digging in the soil, planting seeds, tending gardens, harvesting vegetables, learning basic cooking skills. Afterwards, kids that refused to eat vegetables, or kids that told us “I’m allergic!”  serve themselves third helpings of salad that they grew and cooked themselves.

Through experiential learning, kids are inspired to make food choices that affect not only their personal health, but the health of the community, economy, and environment.


Since we planted our first pea seeds back in 2005, we have worked with:

2015 impact - multi

In the 2017/2018 school year, we had our biggest and most exciting year yet. We worked with:

2018 impact - multi

In the 2017/2018 school year, our program was in Vancouver, North Vancouver, West Vancouver, Victoria, Richmond, Surrey, New Westminster, Langley, Port Moody, Coquitlam, Burnaby, and Kelowna.


It’s important to us that we evaluate the social impact we are making. Each year, we conduct pre-and post-knowledge surveys with our participating kids.

this year we saw (3)

The Fall: 63 lessons


In September 2017, we kicked off our Intermediate Program, working with nine intermediate level (Gr. 4-7) classes and sending 35 chef and community volunteers into the classroom to deliver 63 hands-on lessons.

“Growing Chefs was like have a field trip come to us every second week for a whole term! I loved the program – the experimentation of growing and tasting new things and especially the interaction between the chefs and gardeners and the kids. Besides becoming more adventurous eaters I know my students gained a much better appreciation for locally grown things and how much fun it can be to experiment in the kitchen with food.”
–Valdine Ciwko, Teacher, Charles Dickens Elementary School

In our Intermediate Program, the students learn about local food and healthy food systems. They dive into activities that teach:

  • How to grow food
  • The different edible parts of a plant
  • How to reduce food waste
  • Food miles and seasonality
  • Local food systems and how to support them

They learn useful food and cooking skills such as how to:

  • Properly handle a knife
  • Make a quick-pickle
  • Create healthy, nutritious snacks
  • Make a vegetable stock
  • Construct and write a recipe
  • Make homemade salad dressing
  • Cook their own stir-fry
  • How to properly clean up after cooking  

Lesson Six: Stir it Up!

One of the highlights of our Intermediate Program is the Stirfry Competition. The kids work with their chefs to develop a recipe all of their own. The following lesson, they cook up their creations to serve before a team of special guest judges. This year, we had judges from Whole Foods, Telus, Shauna Gold Personal Real Estate Corporation, and BCIT Magazine come to taste.

fall - yellow

From the classroom: James McKinney Elementary

After long debates and deliberation the previous week about which produce and seasoning would make the best flavour profile, the students were keen to get started. Their classroom had been converted into a mini kitchen with stations for washing, chopping, sauteing, and plating.  For 45 minutes the classroom bustled with activity: greens, peas, and beans plucked from the garden beds after weeks of care; bunches of spinach washed in the classroom sink with little fingers pulling back layers of leaves to rinse dark soil away. A student, tongue poking out of the corner of her mouth in intense concentration, used her newly learned knife skills to create precise, uniform cuts of broccoli, carrots, celery, beans and more. Clusters of kids gather around their dish, heads bent together in conference as they decide on their final plating.

A hush falls over the students as the guest judges taste the four different stir fries. After careful thought, the judges announce the winners for best presentation, best flavour, most colourful, and most creative! Each student wins a spatula to take home.  

The Spring: 329 lessons

spring - green

In our Spring program for primary grades 1-3, the students also learn about local food and healthy food systems. They dive into activities that teach:

  • How to grow food
  • Composting and reducing food waste
  • Urban Agriculture
  • About vegetables from around the world
  • The different edible parts of a plant
  • About vitamins and why we need them
  • Kitchen safety and cleanliness

They learn useful food and cooking skills such as how to:

  • Properly handle a knife
  • Make homemade salad dressing
  • How to prepare various vegetables
  • How to stir-fry

The first day our volunteer chefs introduce themselves in their bright white chef jackets, as eager students describe flowers, plants, and bugs that they associate with gardens. It isn’t long before everyone has their hands in the dirt and are planting seeds that will over the course of 3 months grow into their very own classroom windowsill gardens. As the gardens grew so did students’ curiosity of all the new vegetables our chefs and their fellow classmates brought in to share. Arugula became a new favourite word to say by many tongue-tied students, even if the surprisingly spicy flavor resulted in a few scrunched up faces. While students were often eager to try foods made with what they had grown, there were still some that were hesitant about eating vegetables. With plenty of encouragement and cheers from their peers, and by involving them in the creation of the dish, many were willing to try a taste of the vegetables that came from their gardens. Students could hardly sit still whenever it came time to start one of our cooking lessons and gobbled up bowl after bowl of the healthy vegetables they had grown, harvested, and prepared themselves.

spring - yellow

The Growing Chefs! program was engaging, and fun for my class. Almost every student said they loved it and were upset it was over. Watching the plants grow and taking care of the  garden helps them feel accountable and involved in the whole process, even on days when the Growing Chefs were not in our classroom.”
– Grade 2 Teacher from Lord Nelson Elementary

“Planting seeds is like having money to feed everyone”
– Grade 2 Student from Southlands Elementary

From the Classroom: Captain James Cook Elementary

This year our foods with moods lesson fell during Ramadan and one of our students had decided to observe it for the first time. He happily participated during the whole lesson, making his baby cucumber into a superhero and discussing what urban agriculture is. When it came time for the lettuce taste test, where students taste a bunch of different types of lettuce, the chefs asked if the student if he wanted to take them home to try after sunset. The next lesson, he let the chefs know that he shared the lettuces with his mother and they did their own lettuce taste test together. He liked every single one. Every lesson after that he wanted to take home the leftover veggies to share and learn with his mother.

“A student in our classroom would always have unhealthy lunches (Nutella sandwich and a Kool-Aid) After the second lesson mystery vegetable tastings she mentioned that she had asked her parents to send fruit or veggies with lunch and they did!”

– Natalia Ordonez, Classroom Volunteer

Our program continues to grow and with the amazing support of the Island Chefs Collaborative and our Victoria Program Liaison, Andrew Paumier, we were able to bring our classroom gardening and cooking program to 6 classrooms in the Victoria area. Twenty volunteers from local restaurants and the local nutritionist community helped to deliver 28 lessons to four primary classrooms and 14 lessons to two intermediate classrooms in the spring.

With support from the Central Okanagan Foundation and four community volunteers we were able to deliver our intermediate classroom gardening and cooking program to a very excited class at École Glenmore Elementary. The young chefs were excited to learn about and share their experiences with food, gardening, preserving, and get cooking together. Their final lesson was a competitive stir-fry competition which resulted in a three-way tie for first place as our guest judges were blown away by the students’ recipes and skills.


volunteer - green

Chefs are the heart of our program and about half of our volunteers are professional chefs eager to share their knowledge and passion for good food to inspire the next generation of chefs. We have a number of restaurants, such as Fairmont Vancouver Waterfront, Tacofino, and Earnest Ice Cream, who provide a whole volunteer team for a classroom.

Our volunteer team has grown to include:

  • Gardeners and urban agriculturalists excited to get students hands in the dirt
  • Nutritionists and dieticians wanting to share their expertise in healthy eating
  • Students with a keen interest in local food looking to expand their own skills and leadership abilities in the classroom and to pass on their enthusiasm.
  • Front of house staff from local restaurants
  • Retired and student teachers
  • Parents of kids in our current classes
  • Parents of kids that have done our program

Anyone can volunteer with our program and we have nearly 200 volunteers that want to support a healthy food system and get kids excited about good, whole food.  

volunteers - orange

Our Big Farm Party

farm party

In June, we organised a Big Farm Party, to celebrate these 194 exceptional volunteers that made the 2017/2018 Growing Chefs! program possible. Our party was gracefully hosted by Southlands Heritage Farm. The afternoon was fun-filled with a pie contest, a kid’s corner, farm tours and bee talks, goat visits, amazing ice cream, snacks, and beverages donated by our sponsors, a whole range of lawn games, and some fitting farm-style live music. A newborn baby chick named Artichoke stole everyone’s heart.

Over 100 people attended this event, and we hope to repeat its success in the following years!


staff image

Growing Chefs! is growing! To support our biggest program year ever, our team has welcomed four new staff to help us deliver our record-breaking number of classrooms.

Meet some of them here!
Afton Bell, Program Liaison
Alan Chen, Program Liaison
Morgan Shupe, Program Liaison and Operations Assistant
Selma van Halder, Program Coordinator


Digging in the SOYL

soyl - yellow

This year Growing Chefs! partnered with Fresh Roots Farm to empower high school youth through food.

Our Program Coordinator (and chef extraordinaire), Selma van Halder, coordinated the Community Eats portion of the SOYL summer program. Selma was in charge of kitchen management, lesson delivery, and meal preparation.

Twice a week, Selma worked with six Fresh Roots youth to prepare lunch for more than 50 people. Fresh Roots farm produce grown right on the school grounds was given centre stage in these community meals, served outdoors on the farm.

Every meal, we had one of our wonderful Chef Volunteers in the classroom with us to share their unique perspectives and specific knowledge with the SOYL youth. The youth learnt how to cook for 50 people, prevent food waste all along the food chain, think about how our food choices impact the community around us, and how food can be a connector between cultures. We made pesto out of turnip tops, used zucchini in everything, and tried vegan aged cheeses. We made falafel, kimchi, salad rolls, and so much more!

Camp it Up!

summer camp - green

Along with partnering with Fresh Roots Farm for SOYL, we also joined them at their youth summer camps to teach a cooking lesson on their last day of camp. Our Program Liaison (and superstar chef!), Morgan Shupe, developed and taught two lessons with the campers. During the lesson, the campers cooked a healthy three-course meal from scratch and enjoyed a meal together. The campers also assisted in cleaning up during and after the lesson. All the campers were sent home with a recipe book so they could continue their kitchen adventures at home. Campers were introduced to kitchen basics, basic safety and sanitation, and learned how to have an adventure with their food.

On the first week, we made pesto, flatbreads, a giant salad, and coconut chia pudding with local fruit. And on the second week, we made gluten-free cornbread, honey butter, another giant salad, and more coconut chia pudding with local fruit. All of the vegetables used in the lessons were from Fresh Roots Farm with some of the produce even being picked by the campers themselves.

A successful first year of summer collaboration between Fresh Roots and Growing Chefs!

Think and Eat Green with our Teachers

tegs - red

In the first week of July, we participated in Think and Eat Green’s Summer Institute, which is three days of workshops, plenary sessions, and networking for educators interested in school food systems topics. Many teachers are eager to include food education in their classroom but often feel they lack the basic culinary skills to do so. To address this Growing Chefs! led a kitchen skills workshop for 30 educators where we discussed:

  • Basic kitchen skills
  • How to create a food-safe environment in the classroom,
  • How to incorporate food literacy and cooking into their regular lessons and the B.C. curriculum.

Using the Growing Chefs! model of hands-on learning, participants not only learned new skills and how to connect these skills to their regular lessons, but also prepared a portion of the lunch for all the TEGS attendees. They also walked away with some classroom friendly recipes.


growing chefs community outreach

Growing Chefs! has participated in a number of community events with our partners and supporters over the past year, such as the Stone Soup Festival, the Spot Prawn Festival, and the PNE’s Ag in the City to raise awareness for and educate families about food literacy issues through fun interactive games and activities. These are also great opportunities to connect with teachers interested in having our programs in their schools. We also participate in a number of on campus events at UBC, UBC farm, SFU, and Capilano University to reach university-aged students and increase their awareness of food-related issues.



Growing Chefs! volunteer chefs, board members, staff members, and students have been featured in print and on screen. We’ll be famous worldwide before you know it!

  • Interview on CTV News in September 2017 with volunteer Shannon & Growing chefs! student Sienna.
  • Interview on Global TV in December 2017 with Jaydeen, our Development and Communications Director,  & Growing Chefs! student Piper.
  • Article in Country Life in BC “Where good food comes from: Growing Chefs! Program for school children puts emphasis on seed to plate” in February 2018.
  • Interview on Roundhouse Radio, Fong on Food in April 2018 with Merri, our Founder & Board Chair, & Helen, our Executive Director.

Social Media Growth

In our 2017/2018 year, we grew our social media reach by more than 1,000 people! If you don’t already, be sure to connect with us!


Of course, this jam-packed year full of food literacy fun wouldn’t be possible without the support of our incredible donors. A huge thank you to our supporters.

From Farms to Forks 9 Thank You!

October 14, 2018

A thank you from our Growing Chefs! Founder, Merri Schwartz

From Farms to Forks Nine, you’ve come in with the harvest,
When chefs fill their pots and our farms work their hardest.
And before we head off to eat, drink, and make merry,
A quick list of thanks—for we’re grateful—yes, very!

The usual thanks go out firstly to PICA,
We’re here, you’re our hosts, and we’re so pleased to see ya.
Next, danke, Whole Foods, for your generous presence,
Merci Mission Hill for wine pairings in abundance.

Thanks for top sales go to Stania and Devi,
You drummed up the crowds and sold tickets so many.
A happiest birthday to dear Peter Blitz,
He set up the sound to hear poems—such as this.

And now to our chefs we say please take a bow,
Your work and your skill is a pure, fervent “wow”!
Hands over hearts, to our growers, salute!
You bring forth the bounty—veggie, meat, wine, and fruit.

Our volunteer team, you just blow us away,
Bar, wine, service, auction, door—we’d not be here today,
Without your time and your effort, and still more to list:
Fundraisers, photographers, and spouses—we blow you a kiss!

To Robbyn for bringing your management flair,
To Margaret and Fred, you are always the pair,
Who bring us to life, and engage us each year,
The kids whose stories may inspire a tear.

Our bushel sponsors—many—who donated in kind,
Tea, cheese, bread and soda—no better you’ll find.
Moody Ales and Strange Fellows have brought beer for your cup,
Thanks silent auction donors—now go snatch that stuff up!

For spirits and chocolate, thank Victoria and Mink,
From Pedersen’s the dishes—it just makes you think,
How many it takes to throw an event such as ours,
Our staff and our board—you’re each one true stars.

To Earth’s Own and to Telus, you bought tickets a-plenty,
SVP for support—you guide us so gently.
SpencerCreo: our office, and for the raffle–WestJet,
The list is tremendous—I’m not done quite yet!
Fiona for designing a program so stylish,
Artona for printing and fulfilling each wish.

Our media sponsors: Daily Hive, Edible, and Scout,
You spread the word to make sure we sell out.
And last but not least a big hand one and all,
You’re here and the poem’s done—now go have a ball!

10 Skills Kids Learn While Cooking

July 17, 2018

The week before last, Growing Chefs! joined the THINK&EATGREEN@SCHOOL Summer Institute  at UBC to teach a workshop called “How to Bring the Kitchen into the Classroom”. Our goal was to help and support teachers wanting to bring food and food literacy into their classroom conversations. We shared how we manage to teach cooking in a classroom without an actual kitchen and we did a few of our favourite classroom activities. During the workshop, we gave examples how cooking can mirror and build on current curriculum already taught in the classroom.

Cooking can teach children (and adults too!) so many great skills. Here are a few examples:

Reading, writing, and verbal communication through recipes. Increases vocabulary and introduces children to other languages (sauté – French / bagel – Yiddish / ect.).

Explore where different types of foods are from, diets of different cultures, mapping the food miles of a meal, and the path food must travel to our plate.

How and where different foods grow. Discussing food miles, how to reduce waste (packaging and food waste).

Following a recipe includes counting, fractions, and measuring. Many kitchen skills relate to shapes and spatial reasoning (cutting, plating). Opportunities to introduce budgeting.

Parts of the plant, parts of an animal (cuts of meat). Making observations and exploring food using our five senses. Opportunities for experimenting and making predictions. Chemistry – physical and chemical reactions in the kitchen (bread rising, bread to toast, emulsification etc).

What people ate in the past and why. Opportunities to explore different food preparation methods/tools and how this has impacted our diet.

Understanding nutrition, food safety, and cleanliness.

Exploring new foods, creating recipes, food as art (plating).

Responsibility, cooperation, sharing, self-esteem, and patience.




All photography credit to OSG Photography.

Future Teachers Start in Growing Chefs!

June 25, 2018

While chefs are the heart of our classroom volunteer teams, we are exceptionally fortunate to be joined by volunteers from all sorts of different backgrounds. Each year we are especially grateful to the team of UBC teacher candidates that join us to complete their Community Field Experience.

These folks help our volunteers navigate the classroom environment as well as provide valuable insights and feedback to help us keep our curriculum and lessons fresh and up to date. Meet the team of UBC teacher candidates that have been assisting with our final classroom lessons and helping us with program wrap up this year:

Craig Preston

My name is Craig Preston and I am currently a Teacher Candidate at the University of British Columbia (UBC). I am a student in the Bachelor of Education program and in the International Baccalaureate cohort. 

CraigI am originally from St. Louis, Missouri. After finishing up my undergraduate degree in Hospitality and Restaurant Administration, I moved to Seoul, South Korea, where I taught at a private English school. Teaching in Korea was what made me realize that I love the profession, and since then, I have taught in Chicago and most recently, Singapore. The practical experience that I have gained in the various classroom settings and with the different groups of learners over the past seven years has finally led to me being a teacher candidate at the University of British Columbia.

When going through the list for my community field experience, Growing Chefs! really stood out at me, due to the fact; I have a passion for food and a background in hospitality, I thought to myself that this program would work best for me and fits into what I am interested in.

So far, this experience at Growing Chefs! has changed my perspective on education because the students in every class thus far are so excited to cook and indulge in the vegetables they have grown from the beginning of the Growing Chefs! program. By the end of my first week, I can say that this experience has opened my eyes up toward educating the youth on gardening, cooking, and how beneficial this program is. I look forward to visiting more schools over the next week and seeing how each neighbourhood school is different from each other along with observing different levels of students and grades.

Melisa Pizzolato

Hello! My name is Melisa Pizzolato, and I’m originally from Toronto. After a 4,400 km drive through Canada, I’ve made it to Vancouver where I’m a teacher candidate in the Bachelor of Education program at The University of British Columbia. I have spent the past year doing my practicum in a 3/4/5 Montessori classroom in Port Coquitlam where I worked with a variety of students.

image1 (1)Food has always been a HUGE part of my life. Growing up, my parents were avid gardeners and almost every dinner included something that I had picked from the garden. Salads were always on the dinner table (and continue to be!) and my parents did a good job of emphasizing that healthy eating habits should be everyday habits.

When I moved away to University, the allure of fried, greasy foods was available at every opportunity, and unfortunately, the healthy eating habits that I had grown up with seemed to have been forgotten for the first year. When I moved into a house with roommates in my later years of University, I decided to plant a garden again and start growing some food! We didn’t have a huge backyard, but we made it work! Since then, I’ve always tried to incorporate a garden of sorts in every place that I’ve lived.

Growing Chefs! is amazing in that it shows students that you don’t need a ton of space to grow your own vegetables and that any corner can serve as a proper indoor garden. As a teacher candidate at UBC, I’ve been able to see the Growing Chefs program in action while aligning with the new BC curriculum. Students have the opportunity to practice various language arts skills, math skills (measuring, estimating), and of course, health and physical education! I’ve met students who said they used to hate vegetables demolish an entire bowl of stir fry in minutes, and ask for seconds! I plan on continuing with a program just like Growing Chefs! in my own classroom, or better yet, having Growing Chefs! bring their magic in!

Leona Lee

image1Thanks to Growing Chefs! I had a wonderful time during my extended 3-weeks practicum. I had the privilege to visit a variety of classrooms in Vancouver, Burnaby, Richmond and North Vancouver. As I traveled from classroom to classroom, the students in the class reminded me of a seashell. A seashell is beautiful just like each student in the classroom. They all have their own special beauty and it is important to guide them to discover their likes and dislikes. At Growing Chefs!, we strive to encourage students to consume all types of vegetables and remind students that they may not like it, but they should try it. It is fascinating to see each and every student consume the vegetables that they have grown over the past months. 

My experience with Growing Chefs! has inspired me to start planting in my house. When I have my own classroom, I hope to continue to teach and provide a hands-on experience for children in this generation about urban agriculture and healthy eating.

Kaitlin Flemons


As a UBC teacher candidate, I have loved experiencing the Growing Chefs! cooking lesson. Although the lesson plan is the same for each class, it always runs slightly differently based on the team of volunteer chefs and classroom composition. But, one thing that has remained consistent throughout, is the level of excitement and involvement that I see from each student who is lucky enough to take part in this program. I have never seen children so excited about vegetables, it’s very cool to see. Students have been especially proud of the fact that they have been able to grow things in their own class. Gardens have been tended with care, and sit carefully on the windowsills in the best patches of light. Watering schedules often hang nearby, or there is a designated “class gardener” each day. Students love sharing what they’ve done to make their gardens grow, others share the facts that they’ve learned about vitamins and why eating your vegetables is important.

I chose to volunteer with Growing Chefs! as part of my UBC Community Field Experience because I think that getting kids excited about gardening and healthy eating is so important. I love that Growing Chefs! teaches young people about urban agriculture, fosters green thumbs, and transforms opinions about the deliciousness of vegetables. It’s a program which I’m proud to be volunteering with, and one that I hope to introduce to my students when I have a classroom of my own.

Craig, Melisa, Leona, and Kaitlin, we are proud to have been a part of your teacher education and hope to see you in your own classroom soon!

THANK YOU for choosing Growing Chefs!





WHAT A YEAR! 2017/2018 Classroom Gardening & Cooking Program

June 22, 2018

It’s officially summer and a perfect time to reflect on the incredible time we had this school year. And what a school year it has been! This year, Growing Chefs!, with the help of over 200 engaged and passionate volunteers was able to bring our Classroom Gardening and Cooking Program to 63 elementary school classrooms across the province.

Our biggest year to date, we’ve expanded our program beyond our original roots in Vancouver, branching out to work with more classrooms in North Vancouver, West Vancouver, Burnaby, Richmond, Surrey, New Westminster, Coquitlam, Kelowna, Victoria, and for the first time in Langley and Port Moody. That’s 12 communities total!

Please join us in reflecting and looking back on this year’s program in the below photo essay.

On our first classroom visit, the chefs were warmly greeted at all our schools by students and teachers eager to start their classroom gardens! The chefs and students discussed where their food comes from and the many different places and ways we can grow food before they planted their very own classroom gardens.

As their gardens grew, the chefs introduced students to a variety of new, and unique vegetables, many of which the students were very excited to try for the first time. Students later got the opportunity to talk about and share recipes and foods commonly eaten in their home as a part of our vegetable sharing circle. Some classes even created a “Class Cookbook” to take home.


Mid-way through the program chefs and students talked about the importance of eating healthy, learning about different vitamins and what they do for us. They then made a healthy salad, using greens from their gardens and students learned to follow a recipe to make their own salad dressing.

Over the three and a half month program, students have learned about growing food, eating healthy, sustainable food cycles – from seed to plate to compost – and new kitchen skills thanks to the help of our chef volunteers. Near the end of the program, students used all this knowledge and together prepared a class meal making a tasty stir-fry and soup from the vegetables they had grown themselves.

Our chef team from Earnest Ice Cream even helped a class at Mount Pleasant Elementary turn their peas into a delicious sweet pea ice cream!

This is our final week in the classroom as the school year is coming to a close. Chefs and students are saying heartfelt goodbyes and thank yous as we put our classroom gardens to rest and prepare for the summer and the next school year.

  • “I loved planting the seeds.” – Rachel, Grade 3, École Qayqayt Elementary School
  • “I really liked the Growing Chefs Program! I like vegetables now.” – Ashten, Grade 1, Matthew Begbie Elementary School
  • “I liked everything in the Growing Chefs Program, especially eating the salad, YUM!” – Ada, Grade 1, General Brock Elementary School
  • “My favourite activity is when we eat the vegetables and when we grow the plants and when we help Chef Nathan cut the plants and when we help make the salad.” – Jayden





Old MacDonald had a Farm Party!

June 20, 2018

Written by: Afton Bell

On a Saturday in early June, I was driving to Southlands Heritage Farm; my car was loaded with craft soda, tents and other party essentials. The forecast had called for thundershowers, so along with party supplies I had my gumboots and two changes of clothing (just in case I got soaked). As I drove through rain showers on the way to the farm I was a bit nervous; we had been planning this event for months and I wanted the weather to cooperate. I don’t usually stress about the weather, but this party was important, we had planned this party to thank our volunteers, teachers and supporters for their work with Growing Chefs!. Our volunteers, teachers and supporters are integral to the success of our programs, without them Growing Chefs! wouldn’t be able to do what we do. Everyone on our team wanted to make sure that these very important people had fun and above all felt appreciated.

By the time I arrived at the farm, the sky had cleared, the sun was shining, and I was greeted by the sights and sounds of Southland Heritage Farm. I could tell it was going to be a great party! The day did not disappoint. Our guests were able to enjoy all the farm had to offer, including the company of happy chickens, goats and horses. Southland Heritage Farm generously provided tours of the farm and a very informative learning opportunity that allowed participants to learn about bees and taste honey right from the hive. The children at the party had a great time getting their faces painted, blowing bubbles and getting creative with some crafts. Children and adults alike enjoyed the lawn games or relaxed to live music from Siobhan Soane-Seale and Bryan Bohn.

Guests at the party were also treated to some delicious local food including crudité and appetizers from friends and classroom volunteers at Marriot Pinnacle, freshly scooped ice cream from Earnest Ice Cream (they had a full team in the classroom this year!), chips from Hardbite, and apples from Klippers Organics. For our thirsty guests we had Craft Soda from Phillips Soda Works, Cold Brew, Oat milk and Cashew milk from Earth’s Own, wine from our amazing wine sponsor Mission Hill Family Estate, and beer from Fuggles & Warlock Craftworks. A big thank you to all these supporters that helped make our event very tasty and to Buy-Low Foods for a donation of gift cards to purchase much-needed ice for the party.

To finish the party several Chefs squared off in A Pie Baking Contest – Thanks to our amazing pie judging team, and Congratulations to our winners Sasha, Martin, and Keith! We also awarded one guest with a door prize of two tickets from From Farms to Forks 9 (SAVE THE DATE: October 14, 2018)!

We have been reaching out this past week to say thank you to everyone that helped make this event happen. We were so humbled when many of our volunteers stepped up to volunteer at their own volunteer appreciation event (or agreed to hold a party on their farm). Proving unequivocally that we have the absolute best volunteers. We also had help from energetic volunteers from Telus, Fresh Roots, and Take a Hike Youth at Risk Foundation and some really great pizza from Bufala to feed our volunteer team. We couldn’t have had the party without you. Thank you!

Whether you attended our Appreciation Event or not please know that we could not run our programs without you, and even if we could, the programs would be lacking the energy, skills and passion that our Chefs, Community Volunteers, Teachers and Supporters bring to us. You are the heart of our programs and we appreciate you!

Photo credit for these beauties is due to Mavreen David Photography, and Brigitte and Selma van Halder.

Affogato Affair

June 14, 2018


What do you get when you add steaming espresso to delicious ice cream? An amazing night! Last month, we celebrated the generosity of our monthly donors, our Champion Radish Club. They were invited to bring a guest to a Champion Radish private event, the Affogato Affair.

We met at Earnest Ice Cream and were given an exclusive behind-the-scenes tour of their ice cream factory, a production kitchen connected to their third commercial location on Frances St. Read more about this location in this Scout Magazine article.

We learned about the history of the company and about their commitment to sourcing local ingredients and the creation of their delicious flavours. We learned about the process of making ice cream, and why Earnest Ice Cream is so special. Lastly, we tasted. And tasted, and tasted. YUM!

Next, we walked around the corner to Agro Coffee Roasters. There, we were welcomed with the musical talents of 15-year-old Ashley Pater, glasses of wine from Mission Hill Family Estate and delicious affogatos combining a shot of espresso from Agro Coffee Roasters, a scoop of Earnest Ice Cream’s sweet cream flavour, and for some, a shot of Sons of Vancouver Distillery’s No. 82 Amaretto. Co-owner Dusty Smith even offered a lesson on coffee roasting to those interested. We had a raffle and gave away some bottles of wine, tickets for Bard on the Beach, and gorgeous flower arrangements from Studio Full Bloom.

What a night of education, generosity, and culinary delight! See all of our event photos on Flickr and thank you Mavreen David Photography for capturing the evening.

THANK YOU SO MUCH to the monthly commitment of our Champion Radish Club members, and to everyone who made this evening possible:

Join our Champion Radish monthly donor Club at

You Dine. They Donate.

June 1, 2018

Each year, Growing Chefs! counts on the generosity of our community to bring our Classroom Gardening & Cooking Program to schools across BC. For the 9th year in a row, Growing Chefs! has launched our Eat. Give. Grow. campaign (#EATGIVEGROW), running June – August 2018. Local restaurants and businesses have added $1 to select menu items to help raise money for our programming. Scroll down to see the fabulous lineup of participating restaurants we’re sure you’ll want to visit this summer.

If you are from a local restaurant or business that would like more information or to join, click here or contact by email, or call 778-885-1308.

Why do restaurants participate?

IMG_0472ChefKaranSuri (1)Growing Chefs! does so much for the kids and the community, and Eat. Give. Grow. gives us a great opportunity to support them. They’re giving children healthy food habits during some of their most impressionable years, teaching them where food comes from and how much work it takes to grow. The impact that Growing Chefs! makes is so important; we feel it’s a natural extension of our own sustainability values that we’re pursuing with initiatives like our rooftop garden.”

Chef Karan Suri, Fairmont Waterfront – ARC Restaurant

 THANK YOU to our 2018 Participating Restaurants:

Agro Coffee Roasters (June, July, August)
Ask for Luigi (July)
Fairmont Waterfront – ARC Restaurant (June, July, August)
Big Ridge Brewing Co. (June, July, August)
Burdock & Co. (June)
Cartems (July)
The Distillery Bar + Kitchen (July, August)
Fable Kitchen (June, July)
The Flying Beaver Bar & Grill (July, August)​
Forage (July)
Fuud (year-round)
Hey, Dumplings! (August)
High Mountain Brewing Company – Whistler Brewhouse (July, August)
Les Faux Bourgeois (June)
The New Oxford (June, July, August)
Pier 73 (year-round)
Pourhouse Restaurant (July, August)
Provence Marinaside (July)
Tacofino (July, August)
Timber (July)
Wild Rice (June, July, August)
The Yaletown Brewing Company (July, August)

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.

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