Young culinary students prepare meals and serve them at Pasadena homeless shelter

Pasadena Star News

By Caroline An, Staff Writer
Pasadena Star News

ALTADENA – Aveson Charter School student Corey Cain was busy mashing up sweet potatoes to pour into golden pie crusts to be baked for 20 minutes.

At the other end of the cafeteria, students Alexis Augmon and Carlin Faucett peeled russet potatoes for a potato and leek soup.

Overseeing his 13 culinary arts students at their work stations Thursday, Lowell Bernstein, director of Aveson’s culinary arts program, said he was confident the youngsters could whip up six dishes – from a main course to dessert – to feed about 80 people at Union Station Homeless Services on Thursday evening.

“Everything is going pretty well. We have three hours, but I think we can make it,” said Bernstein, who launched the Culinary Arts Academy at Aveson in September. Aveson is part of the Asia Society International Studies Schools Network.

On the menu were oven-baked fried chicken, potato and leek soup, garlic string beans, pasta salad, sweet potato pie and peanut butter blossom cookies.

With Thanksgiving Day a week away, Bernstein’s students said they wanted to serve a meal to the homeless people at Union Station and the center’s staff that was reminiscent of a traditional Thanksgiving feast – but without the turkey.

“I want them to be involved with their community and have a better understanding of their world,” Bernstein said. “After the students serve the meals, they grab a plate and sit down with others at the table and they talk. It breaks down some of the walls and stereotypes the kids might have had.” Photo Gallery

He said the students have made the meals for Union Station their project for the fourth Thursday of the month. Bernstein wants to expand the meals program to the Pasadena Senior Center and have his students prepare lunches for the center’s staff and seniors.

The experience inspired Alexis, a seventh-grader, to volunteer this holiday season, she said.

“I love helping people,” she said.

By having his students in the kitchen once a week and cooking for large groups, Bernstein said he hopes they’ll gain not only compassion but culinary competency.

“I want them to feel confident that in college they can cook a meal for themselves, or help their families out during meals,” said Bernstein. “Food appreciation is key.”

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