Purely a Matter of Taste: Instruction from Star Cooks
Monday morning in a Stuttgart comprehensive school. While in the other classrooms teaching is going on according to plan, in the third form there is a frenzy of activity. Almost all the school desks have been pushed aside. Twenty curious pupils between eight and nine years of age are clustered round the remaining desk. Spread out there are fruits and vegetables from the weekly market: bananas, berries, various spices, herbs and salad, which every adult would presumably recognise.
Yet this spectacle is by no means an everyday one for the primary school pupils in their mini-aprons and over-sized chef’s caps. Quite a few stare somewhat confused at the wholesome food; others touch it, fascinated, with their fingers. „A completely normal response”, says twenty-eight year-old Andreas Walker, who has brought the foodstuffs with him. „I’m here just for that reason.”
Going to school with star cooksWalker’s normal job is that of head chef at a highly regarded hotel in Stuttgart. He is the culinary shooting star of Swabia. In addition to this he is often booked in for culinary demonstration evenings when he lectures from the cooker for celebrities. In his career he fries, simmers and cooks daily from eight in the morning to well past midnight. But at least twice a month he also takes time out.
Then he drops in on the „taste training” classes in the Stuttgart area sponsored by the consumer initiative „Eurotoques”. The non-profit foundation has made it its task to sensitise people to the use of natural foods. Altogether about 475 top cooks from all over Germany are taking part in the action. „On behalf of the ‘School Cooking Club’”, we test the senses of school pupils”, Walker explains. „They can try everything I bring along. In this way many pupils experience various flavours and become acquainted with new foods.”
„What are tomatoes?”On the agenda at the Stuttgart comprehensive school today is what is called a „blind taste testing”. Walker has blindfolded a pupil. Now the eight-year-old must guess which vegetable or fruit he has before him. He recognises the banana relatively quickly. But neither touching nor tasting reveals to him the identity of the kiwi. „I see this quite often”, says Walker. „Many children know most foods only in tinned form. I’ve been in classes where the kids didn’t even know what tomatoes are.”
The head chef therefore takes a whole morning to impart at least some basic knowledge about foodstuffs to the pupils and give them a taste for fruits and vegetables: „As far as possible, I try to use regional foods. The kids then also learn a little about the region where they live”.
The art of cookery for the school canteenWalker delivers a sobering summary: „It can’t be denied that children are more and more unfamiliar with aromas and spices. „Many parents work and don’t cook at all at lunchtime or else quickly heat something up in the microwave.” That is why the Swabian cook is so engaged teaching school classes in his region. Walker goes to various schools where he regularly offers his instruction. At one primary school and one secondary general school he also cooks lunch specials twice a week. „They couldn’t afford it otherwise”, he says.
Walker is not paid for his work. Like all the other star cooks at „Eurotoques”, he works on an honorary basis. From time to time, however, he does receive calls from grateful parents and he regularly gets Christmas cards from enthusiastic pupils. For him, that is the best reward: „It is part of a cook’s code of honour to stand up for natural and wholesome food”, says the star chef. „The enthusiasm of the children is sufficient thanks and naturally an incentive to continue working with them”.
is an educational journalist and editor of the web portal Schule.WDR.de of the West German Broadcasting Channel (WDR) in Cologne.
Translation: Jonathan Uhlaner
Copyright: Goethe-Institut e.V., Online-Redaktion
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