Project Chef

Hello everyone! It’s been awhile since my last post (haven’t been travelling much lately) but I did have the amazing opportunity to check out a children’s cooking program while I was in Vancouver last month.


Project CHEF is a travelling cooking class where the director, Barb Finley, and her team of chefs visit school classrooms and teach cooking classes to elementary school children. The usual program runs for one week where a classroom of students take anywhere from three to five cooking classes throughout the course of the week.

While I was in town, Project CHEF happened to be doing an in residence program – an extended version of their program where there entire school gets to participate in Project CHEF cooking classes. Classroom curriculum also ties into cooking and food at this time so art classes have students painting carrots and beets and bowls and plates are made in their pottery class. They even write about food for creative writing and put together a menu of different meals from various cultures for social studies. At the end of the residency program there is a big school wide celebration/assembly.


Parent volunteers are welcome to help out during the 1.5 hour cooking class as well. I helped out with a grade 1 class that made pizza and a grade 6 class that made pasta sauce. It was great to see each group of students working together to make a meal and learning various skills along the way.


What makes this program unique is Chef Barb’s approach. She was a teacher before she went to culinary school and includes several teaching moments in the class to tie into other areas of curriculum such as math (how to divide a pizza into halves, quarters and eights), chemistry (how baking powder works) and what a vegetable is (an edible plant that doesn’t have seeds) versus a fruit. She also brings in visiting guests such as Ocean Wise, chocolatiers to talk about how chocolate is made from bean to bar and even Olympic athletes who talk about the importance of a healthy diet.


And before everyone starts eating she encourages a student to volunteer how to say “enjoy” in another language (eg. bon appetite, kali orexi). She also provides table topics for the children to discuss while eating. And everyone is responsible for setting the table, doing the dishes and cleaning up!


What’s truly impressive is that funding for the program is done through grants, foundations and private donations which Chef Barb applies for each year (the program has been running for 7 years with a number of other spin off projects that are currently underway). Right now, there are more schools who want to participate in the program than spots available (it’s the equivalent to a three year waiting list) so participating schools are chosen by a lottery.

If you are interested in learning more about Project CHEF, you can find more information on their website.

Christmas on the Westcoast – visiting Chocolate Arts

I’m originally from Vancouver so every year I go back for Christmas – which is great. I get to escape the cold Toronto winter for a week and spend time with family and friends. I also get to visit some of my favourite food places. The places can change over the years but right now one of my favourite chocolate shops is Chocolate Arts. It’s a boutique chocolate shop located just off of Granville Island where they make all their chocolate on site. There is also seating if you want to have a snack or hot chocolate. I reminds me a lot of SOMA in Toronto where you can see people making chocolate in the background while you choose products from the display case and shelves.


Chocolate Arts has a fabulous chocolate tasting station where you can sample all the different types of chocolate that they sell. They are arranged in order of cocoa content from 48% to 70%. They carry single origin chocolates as well as blends and there are descriptions of the taste profiles for each type. I love it!


What I find really interesting is that chocolate that has the same cocoa content can still taste quite different from each other. Some have a fruitiness while others have s buttery, smooth finish. Some are more citric and others are more mellow. And even though generally the higher the cocoa content, the more bitter (i.e. less sweet) the chocolate, today I sampled a chocolate with a 65% cocoa content that tasted more bitter than chocolate with a 70% cocoa content.


At this level, chocolate is a bit like wine where other flavours and characteristics need to be taken into consideration rather than just the percentage of cocoa. I bought a bag of 65% fleur de cocoa because it had a mellow flavour and smooth finish. I figured it would make an amazing hot chocolate but would also be suitable for a wide variety of baking recipes. Now I just have to find a recipe worthy of this good quality chocolate (that’s assuming that I don’t use it all up making hot chocolate instead which I think is one of the best ways to enjoy it in its purist form). Did mention that ice storms have been hitting Toronto this year?

Do you know of a great food shop in Vancouver that I should visit the next time I’m there? Please share it in the comments below.