Ray Garcia Gets High School Kids to Eat Their Vegetables

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Photo: Fig

In case you missed a similar story in L.A. Weekly, the L.A. Times takes a look into Ray Garcia's school garden today. The locavore Fig chef runs an edible garden at Santa Monica's Olympic High where a group of kids who count Cheesecake Factory and Red Lobster among the better restaurants they've frequented plant and eventually eat the heirloom tomatoes, eggplant, kale, and rare baby lettuces they grow. Garcia even drops funds form his own pocket to keep the garden growing (take that Jamie Oliver) in his role teaching at the thirteen-year-old project. The chef says of his pupils, "These kids feared food. Not only are they disconnected from it, they fear it." But there's fortunately a happy ending.

Slowly, Garcia watched the student's appreciation for food and tending the land grow. Originally some of there were there for extra-credit, but one student learned, "The stuff you buy from a fast-food place or a restaurant — it starts from here. You can see the effort people put into food for the whole community."

Another is quoted as saying, "It gets you out of the routine. If I could get paid to do this, it would be awesome." Which is really Garcia's point, as he puts it, he's hoping to get the kids "to step outside their comfort zone. That's how they'll succeed."

Garcia rewarded some of his star pupils with a dinner at Fig's first farmer's dinner of 2011, serving the kids oxtail, beef cheeks, duck, short rib and pancetta meatloaf, and scallops and following the advice of manager Larry Scher to eat whatever they wanted. Some of the students even took a bite of tongue, one of the dishes making this chef's "meat market" menu on Valentine's Day. Sounds like they liked what they were eating, as one student explained, "I'm just going to brag about this all day tomorrow."

Kudos to our chefs like Garcia--Cecconis' Andrea Cavaliere with Chefs Move to Schools and Chaya's Haratakua Kishi with C-Cap come to mind--who are helping push real revolution through L.A.'s school system with the power of good food.

Students get hands-on lesson in nutrition [LAT]
Earlier: Chefs Collaborate To Bring "Good Food For All" To L.A. [Grub Street]