Photos by Michaela Kwoka-Coleman.
Ten aspiring chefs from Cesar Chavez Elementary School received a kitchen tour, learned about kitchen safety and made the perfect German pretzels Tuesday afternoon courtesy of 4th and Olive Restaurant in Long Beach’s East Village.
The students, who are 9- and 10-year-olds in the fourth grade, are part of an after school program that teaches them culinary skills and techniques.
Terri Henry, who coordinated the event, said the after school cooking classes are important, as not all children want to be involved with sports or other traditional activities.
“Obviously the more we get the next generation interested in what we do in this industry, the better off the industry’s going to be,” owner Dan Tapia said.
Once the children arrived, all wearing chef’s hats with their names written on them, 4th and Olive owners Tapia and executive chef Alex McGroarty gave them chef’s coats to wear. McGroarty then took them to the kitchen where he taught them how to properly wash their hands, which includes washing halfway up the forearm.
After the young chefs washed up, McGroarty gave them dough and showed them step-by-step how to roll it and twist it into a pretzel shape.
While the pretzels baked in the oven, the children were taken on a tour of the restaurant’s kitchen, which included a trip inside the industrial size refrigerator, and a safety lesson, such as the need to keep foods separate due to the possibility of cross contamination.
4th and Olive opened in December 2016 with the mission to bring Alsatian cuisine to Long Beach and provide jobs to disabled veterans.
It was McGroarty’s idea to bring in children and show them how a restaurant kitchen works.
“I thought it was a good idea to have some young students to come in who are excited about food, excited about cooking and try to get them excited about being inside a restaurant,” McGroarty said. “And to show them the way real food is created, not in a factory, [but] by hand.”
Tapia said that he plans on holding more community events like this, adding that he wants to establish an internship program.
“The quality of our business is rooted heavily in our place in the community,” Tapia said. “We don’t believe it’s ethical to make money off of a community without putting something back into it and enriching it, as much as it enriches our lives.”