By Krystal Cohen
On Friday, September 20th, one classroom in Foundation Academy’s Intermediate School was abuzz with excitement during the second meeting of Culinary Club. Under the guidance of Chef Aaron Black, two groups of students created natural strawberry lemonade, squeezing fresh lemon juice and mashing strawberries, while another group of scholars decorated chocolate-covered pretzels.
Culinary Club is one of eight Intermediate School clubs that meet on Friday mornings. Other clubs include Karate Club, Girls Coding Group, STEM Club, Art Club, Health & Wellness Club, Poetry/Writing Club, and Music Club. Designed in collaboration with community partners like Chef Black, clubs expose scholars to a range of enrichment activities to complement their academic studies. Scholars have the opportunity to learn new skills, work collaboratively, and gain hands-on experience in practical areas.
“It gives them something to look forward to,” says science teacher Ms. Jacobs, who co-leads Culinary Club with Chef Black. “It gives them a fun way to look at certain things, to bring in all different aspects of learning and put it all together.”
Ms. Jacobs got involved with the club because she loves to cook and because of the connection between cooking and science. “I can change any type of culinary lesson to be about science,” she explained.
Chef Black echoed her opinion calling the kitchen “a lab” and describing how experimental cooking can be.
A New Jersey native, Chef Black’s interest in the culinary arts piqued at 11 years old when he started watching cooking shows on TV. He began his career in corporate finance, but after serving in the US Navy for a short period, he decided he didn’t want to return to his old position. Instead, he chose to pursue his passion for cooking by going to culinary school and launching a food truck.
“When you see that little bit of light, and you see that door open a little bit,” Chef Black explained. “You gotta go for it.” Now he serves as a private chef.
With a love of teaching, Chef Black combines his passions by leading culinary classes in the surrounding area. He’s taught meal prep classes at Sur La Table, runs pop-up events throughout the city of Trenton, and started a culinary program for at-risk youth through the Trenton Police Department. In the future, he hopes to open a recreational cooking school to inspire others to pursue their passion.
Through the culinary club, Chef Black aims to introduce students to the world of culinary art while encouraging them to make healthy food choices. Students will also have the opportunity to learn more about food prep, culinary tools, and safety while cooking.
Scholars have already fallen in love with the club. “The kids are all over the place. They’re so excited about everything!” Ms. Jacobs beamed. “They like creating things.”
4th grader Daniel echoed her sentiment, calling the club a “50 out of 5.”
We can’t wait to see what Chef Black has in store for the rest of the term!