The University of Illinois Extension partnered with the Rockford Police Department to develop Flavors with 5.0, a seven-week cooking program that introduced 10 sixth graders from West Middle School to the culinary arts and created positive interactions with local law enforcement. When creating this program, Detective Courtney Tillmon, Resident Officer Patrice Turner and I knew that we wanted to show youth the possibilities of food science and careers within food. The program design was developed with a few police volunteers, officers and community leaders.
Each week, youth learned new skills and cooking safety in the kitchen. Youth learned chopping skills, how to read recipes and measurements and many safety tips. We even showed students a commercial kitchen where Chef Guy of The Machine Shed, taught students how to properly handle meat. Students even had a chance to taste their work.
The final week of our program, youth competed in a cooking challenge where they used familiar ingredients and mystery ingredients to create sweet and savory crepes. All of our participants did an exceptional job creating amazing plates! Their dishes were judged by Rockford leaders from United Way, Rockford Police and Fire departments, and Chef Guy. Adan Romero and Joselyn Garcia, sixth graders at West Middle School, were named Top Chefs for their creativity, precision and dedication to the program.
Unknown to us all, not only did our Rockford community learn about our incredible chefs through media outlets, so did Food Network! Food Network's Kids Baking Championship asked both top chefs to submit applications for the national television competition. Good luck Adan Romero and Joselyn Garcia! We are all very proud of you and we are cheering for you!
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