Last year as part of APB Cook Studio’s 3rd birthday celebration Rushina, who is the heart (in every sense of the word) behind APB wanted to do something meaningful to celebrate our 3 year milestone in lieu of a big fancy party. Thanks to a friend, Srini Swaminathan she connected with the teachers of the TFI Climbers group that are situated at Dharavi and joined hands with them to adopt a class of 12 kids who had keen interest in cooking. And every month since then, our little group of Climbers came in for a cooking session that connected to their core curriculum.
In the first month, the entire class of climbers joined us for two separate sessions. They were introduced to our studio, and we talked about careers in food illustrating through a presentations careers like chefs, restaurant critics, food writers. After the presentation the children made their own pizzas. They were observed and 15 kids that showed an inclination towards cooking were shortlisted.
Session 1: English, Kitchen Basics and Nutrition with Rushina Munshaw Ghildiyal
Rushina conducted this first session, in which they learned English words related to the kitchen; safety, hygiene, ingredients, recipe, raw, cooked, were taught and illustrated. We then talked about hygiene, safety and nutrition. To illustrate nutrition and food groups, Rushina created a life size pyramid with real ingredients. The session ended with the kids understanding knife skills through cutting vegetables. This was tossed into healthy sprout bhels and fruit chaats for an easy snack.
Session 2: Ratio and Proportion through Bread with Shekhar Ghildiyal
Shekhar, our bread expert conducted this session. The children were taught how science and math came alive in the kitchen through baking bread with measurements and ratios and the action of yeast on dough. The kids made turtle shaped breads which they proudly carried home.
Session 3: Geography though Chocolate with Chef Varun Inamdar and Aman Ghildiyal
Friend of the studio, patissiere and chocolatier Chef Varun generously gave his time to teach our kids about chocolate. He brought Geography alive for the children by illustrating the chocolate cycle from bean to bar. He also taught the kids how to make chocolate clusters. This session also had a lesson in origami by Aman Ghildiyal, Rushina’s son which highlighted geometry. This was a fun activity for the kids in which the adults were flummoxed with the folding, while the kids were sharp and quick to grasp the method at one go. They made paper boxes to carry back their chocolate creations as a Diwali gift for their families.
Session 4: Chemistry through Baking with Chef Srishti Bandhopadhaya
The kids were insistent on learning to bake cupcakes and our studio chef Srishti taught them some basic chemistry lessons through baking. While making simple vanilla cupcakes, she explained how baking soda, the function of sugar and role of eggs in baking. Armed with this knowledge, the kids made and frosted their own cupcakes to take back home.
Session 5: History through Biryani with Chef Prabjyot Kaur
Food is the best way to teach kids about history, as we found out during this session on the origins of biryani. This classic dish was well known by the kids but they were surprised to learn that it is in not exactly ‘Indian’. Chef Prabjyot taught them about the Persian and Mughal conquests that brought this dish to our nation. Of course, the kids were excited to cook up their own biryani!
Session 6: History of Food through Archaeology with by Dr. Kurush Dalal.
Friend of the studio, Dr. Dalal talked about archeology as a career option. The food our ancestors ate, beginning from the stone aged man to the British era. The children then made kebabs, to replicate how early man would have cooked meat.
Session 7: Exam time with Rushina and Chef Ranveer Brar!
As the last session, the students were tested in all the subjects covered in the past months. They were given a question paper and were marked on the same. This was followed by a practical cooking test where each team of 2 children were given 2 eggs, pantry staples and a chit with an egg dish written on it. They cooked up their version of the dishes. Rushina and Chef Ranveer tasted and scored the dishes. Chef Ranveer spent time interacting with the children and was very impressed with them. You can read his thoughts here.
After the exam, we spent time with them, eating and talking to them. They showered the entire team with flowers, handmade cards and gifts. It has been a pleasure watching them bloom in their kitchen skills, seeing their confidence; basking in the joy they bring to us and hopeful for their futures.
We have recently heard that this group of Climbers will return to the studio in the next academic year for a higher level of culinary training and we are super excited to see them again!