A Growing Team at Growing Chefs! – Introducing Selma van Halder
Another season, another addition to the team! My name is Selma van Halder and I’m proud to introduce myself to you as the newest team member at Growing Chefs! I have joined this week as Program Assistant, and will be working closely with Amanda Adams to make sure the classroom program runs smoothly this spring.
My food journey started when I was very little. I was born in the Netherlands. My mom propped me up on the side of the sink as soon as I could sit, and we would cook together. I graduated from stealing the Brussels sprouts straight out of the colander to wielding a knife in no time. My mother will be proud to tell you that when the time came for me to take swimming lessons at 4 years old, I made my own pre-pool dinners from scratch. Making these weekly omelettes were, to me, the best thing about having to go to the pool…
This seems to be a pattern in my life: I tend to think about food above all else. This is why, after two university degrees in Anthropology of Religion, and several years on the non-food related non-profit and NGO scene, I decided to finally dedicate my professional life to food.
Vancouver was calling, and I found my food home at the Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts (PICA). After their professional culinary arts program and a job as a teacher’s assistant, I left my PICA family for a job in the vibrant Vancouver restaurant industry. I’m thankful to have had the opportunity to work and train with some of the best chefs in Vancouver; I spent two years with Chef Chris Whittaker at forage and Timber restaurants. In my spare time I cook (duh), write, garden, sing, and I volunteer.
Volunteering with organisations that make my heart beat a little faster has been a staple in my life since my student days, so when Chef Chris posted a Growing Chefs! call for volunteers in our staff room at Forage I jumped at the chance. I’ve spent the past four years honing my craft and my kitchen vocabulary, only to tone the latter down for Tuesday mornings with Growing Chefs!, or Wednesday afternoons with Fresh Roots kids.
What could be better than teaching kids about food? There is nothing more empowering than an awareness of the products you are consuming, and nothing more precious than being able to go through the process of growing, harvesting, processing, and cooking your own food. And most of all, it’s so much fun! The kids love it, and the giant pile of hand drawn thank you cards at the end of the season gets me every time.
A true understanding of what it takes to transform a seed into something that not only sustains us but enables us to thrive is hard to find. Over the many decades of industrialization the chain has become too long, the disconnect between consumer and product is so great, that we’ve lost understanding of what is literally the most important thing in our lives: food. Kids in the western world are now, for the first time in human history, estimated by the World Health Organisation to live shorter lives than their parents due to diet related disease. Something needs to change and I want to do my part to fill the gap, to raise awareness and make the world a better place by doing what I do best: cook and teach.
In September of last year I decided to take the leap and quit my kitchen job to join Groundswell, Vancouver’s local social venture incubator, for their fifth cohort of budding social entrepreneurs. I have been working hard ever since to make my dream of owning and operating a kitchen literacy coaching and training business a reality. Groundswell is a community of like-minded individuals striving towards a new economy, one social venture at a time. They offer support and community to “unlikely entrepreneurs” and provide classes and a platform within an incubator structure.
My time at Groundswell has resulted in a new business: Fare Kitchen Literacy. It is my goal with this business to provide people with meaningful assistance in their journeys towards healthier, more sustainable food consumption. I do that by offering in-home kitchen literacy coaching and training for individuals or families. I’m also partnering with existing organisations within the thriving food scene that is Vancouver, to assist them in broadening their reach.
One of those exciting partnering conversations was with Amanda, here at Growing Chefs! in December of last year. While we were looking into the possibilities for a family based curriculum and discussing the options for connecting kids and parents with the joys of engaging with and preparing food together, she silently dropped the job description for Program Assistant in my mailbox.
And here I am: ready to dive into the behind-the-scenes side of the organisation that I’ve been in love with since I moved here. There could not have been a better step for me to take at this point in time, and I hope to get to know you all as we move into the growing season.
Have you registered as a volunteer for this session yet? Now is the time!
Click here for more information and to apply, and don’t hesitate to contact Amanda or I with any and all questions. See you in the classroom!