The four year olds from Bright Horizons were treated to a private farm-to-table-style cooking class taught by a former classmate of Emeril Lagasse's Wednesday, courtesy of Overlook Hospital.
As part of the hospital's healthy community initiative, the preschoolers took a tour of the Community Garden hosted by ExecutiveChef Todd Daigneault.
Daigneault, who was raised on a farm in New England, grew up harvesting most of his family's meals. Committed to helping people incorporate healthy eating into their daily lives, the chef said the Community Garden is supplying fresh vegetables and herbs to both patients and employees at the hospital. The offerings, free of pesticide, are particularly beneficial for oncology patients, he noted.
When it comes to developing healthy eating habits, there's no better time to begin than when you're young, the chef and Atlantic Health System administrators agreed. To start off the youngsters' field trip with a bit of panache, Daigneault presented each child with a miniature chef's hat. He then told them together they'd be hand-picking some of the ingredients for their lunch: Pasta Pomodoro.
The eager gardeners got right to work, choosing vine-ripened tomatoes - the best kind, according to Daigneault - and fragrant basil. Armed with child-friendly knives, the chef, who hosts private cooking demonstrations for both children and adults, made sure everyone had a chance to slice and dice some of his and her selections.
"Hopefully, if they see all of this, they get in the habit early of wanting to eat healthy and they bring it home," said Katherine Ferguson, community health educator at Overlook.
Prior to the cooking class, the preschoolers took a tour of the hospital's kitchen and new rooftop apiary to check out the bee hives and learn about harvesting honey.
As a souvenir of their time in the garden, children took home the recipe to recreate their lunch and fact sheets about vegetables and herbs.