Wednesday, March 29, 2017

My APB-TFI Culinary Education Program batch of 2017 'graduated’

If you have watched the work that I do, I am sure you have come across my work with TFI. 

Today a beautiful inspiring journey of love, learning and sharing concluded for me. My APB-TFI Culinary Education Program batch of 2017 'graduated’ at an intimate little felicitation ceremony at their school in Dharavi.

The objective of this event was to showcase what the kids have done in their time with us to their classmates, parents, teachers. The ceremony was graced by Chef Varun Inamdar and Chef Saransh Goila who kindly braved the heat and traffic in Mumbai to come and inspire my kids. Our message was a simple one, that we could be anything we wanted to, regardless of where we came from. Blogger friends, past members of APB staff and trainee programs also joined us. Thank you to Manasi and Debashish of TFI for working with us to make this happen. And than you Saransh, Geeta, Sucheta, Roshan and Sidharth for taking time out and joining us!

At its conclusion, Nausheen, one of my students, gave a touching, eloquently written and lucidly delivered speech. Tearing up at the point where she shared that she could not imagine not coming to APB anymore. And I did too, because I realized I could not imagine not seeing these kids. Other new batches are already coming to us. And hopefully many, many more children will colour our spaces with their bright eyes, happy chatter and willingness to learn, but this lot will always be special, because they were the first. We learned together and while Apb Cook Studio aims to ‘Inspire to Cook’ I think it is us at Team APB, our families and our friends that were the ones to benefit!

This journey began about 2 years ago. My studio was to turn 3 and I had plans to throw a big party. I told myself I wanted to share our happiness, but if I am honest, more than that I wanted to show the world, well wishers and nay sayers alike, that I had survived! As the birthday approached, however, everything fell apart. I was extremely disappointed. Around that time I happened to meet Srini Swaminathan, a friend I connected with via twitter through a mutual friend Anaggh. (Srini is someone who has dedicated himself to voluntary education and has always been an inspiration). Srini had been a Teach For India Fellow and was still connected to the class he mentored. When he saw the studio he expressed a wish that his kids could come over. And just like that the idea was born! 

I decided to skip the big blow-out party and give back the good wishes and love we had received by using the savings I had to adopt a batch of kids for a culinary program. Over the next few months, the idea was fleshed out, we met with the then fellows – Paridhi, Komal and Debashish who were teaching Srini’s class and laid out a plan. We adopted a group of 16 kids that were most culinary inclined that would come to us each month. And I created a food based curriculum that would tie in to the core curriculum they were studying in school. It was all new, and so very exciting! 

We began with an orientation in which they got an introduction to careers in the food industry through a presentation. Over the next year we taught nutrition with a life size real food pyramid. Measurement, Volume, Ratio and Proportion through a session on Bread taught by Shekhar. Geography through chocolate with Chef Varun Inamdar (in which my son, Aman also taught the kids origami boxes to carry their chocolates home). Chef Shrishti taught them Chemistry through baking and Chef Prabjyot taught them History through Briyani, Dr. Kurush Dalal who has been a huge support to me always taught them about the food our ancestors ate beginning from stone aged man to British era. The children then made kebabs, to replicate how early man would have cooked meat. Our first assessment came around and Ranveer Brar was kind enough to support me with his time and vast Masterchef judging experience (wink, wink). My kids did me and Apb Cook Studio proud by performing fantastically on every parameter. The entire APB team and Ranveer were showered with flowers, cards and gifts by the children.

We had them come back to us the following year. With their basic foundation in place, this year I took them on a gourmet safari of the world. We used ingredients available to them to teach them North and South Indian cuisine, Mexican, Thai, Chinese, Lebanese cuisines, street food and more. We hope to do a little restaurant Pop up with them soon.

And in all of this, we watched them all grow. In learning confidence and experience. Their spunk, enthusiasm and unhindered love has left me humbled and full of emotions I am only now assimilating,

And as I wrote this post, I could not help thinking. There were two ways I could have reacted two years ago. Negatively or positively. Too often we focus on the negative. Rail at what does not happen, circumstances, not realising that it is that choice, negative or positive, that becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Thankfully I chose to channelize the negative energy positively. And it was an actio that keeps giving back. Because positivity begets positivity. Something I have seen in everyone I have asked to help me with this project. Thank you to everyone who has stepped up to support, help and encourage, this endeavour of mine, Varun, Kurush and Ranveer, to my entire family, to all my industry and blogger friends. And most imortantly Team APB who made each day happen!

GYAAN and Links
Read more about our activities on the Teach for India Blog. 
Read Chef Ranveer's experience in his own words on his blog. 
Watch this video made by Teach For India on our sessions 

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