CLEVELAND — There are some new young chefs in town and they’re taking over the incubator restaurant, Edwins Too in Shaker Square. The Harvey Rice Elementary kitchen crew has been cooking up three course meals and their experience is shaping their lives at home.
Chef and founder Brandon Chrostowski says this was part of the motivation to turn Edwins Too into an incubator in the first place.
“It’s a community kitchen,” he said.
The space allows people of all ages to learn, grow and find support, which is exactly what the Harvey Rice crew got to experience. At the same time, they’re helping solve years of lacking health education and food insecurity throughout the community.
The program started about four months ago on zoom through cooking classes hosted by Chrostowski. His team prepared food supply kits to give to each student weekly in order to bring their selected recipes to life.
“Every Thursday night we get together and we cook things,” Chrostowski explained. “We’ve done spaghetti and meatballs. We’ve done frittata. We’ve done quesadillas.”
After the last zoom class, the students got to take what they learned in the 12-week cooking program and put it to the test by cooking and serving their parents and teachers in person at Edwins Too.
“We’re starting to build this up, but we need champions,” Chrostowski said. “Thank goodness for our champions in this city because without them our kids aren’t benefiting as much as they could. It’s not getting easier out here. Summer is coming and we know happens when it gets hot outside and you have time on your hands. We want to keep all these young men and women safe, sound and trained to be good chefs.”
On the day of their Edwins Too debut, the menu was, “Caesar salad, chicken marsala with linguine pasta and sautéed spinach with tiramisu and a beverage,” said Harvey Rice 6th grader, Shanivah Congress. “We didn’t have our parents help us like we did it by ourselves.”
Congress, who is 12-years-old, told News 5 she got to live out her dream.
“I want to have a restaurant when I’m older.”
Meanwhile, for Delana Warr the experience allowed her two kids to live out their family passion and legacy. She explained her son “loves to cook like his father. Since his father had passed, I wanted to keep that going with him.”
Warr says the experience has also “given them a wider world, something bigger for them to see where they can go.”
Harvey Rice principal, Jason L. Tidmore, says finding ways to keep students engaged during a remote learning reality was challenging. Now, their experience within the program has allowed his students to grasp life lessons.
“The area that we’re in, 116th, has been deemed a food desert and so there’s not a lot of good healthy options in the neighborhood and so to teach the kids how they can bring the healthy kitchen home and make it happen right in their households is awesome,” Tidmore said.
Maureen Pisanick, a local registered dietician and founder of Pisanick Partners, agrees. All public school districts are required by law to have a wellness committee.
Pisanick says it's important for kids to start learning how to prepare healthy foods by themselves at a young age as those lessons may outlast things like geometry.
“I love the connection between places like Edwins that are willing to take models that they've really masterfully put into play to help be strong economic contributors in the community and realize that in order to grow that we have to start with our kids at school,” she said.
Chrostowski and his team are working with five other schools in Northeast Ohio. He says he wants more schools to come on board.