Plenty of local high schools and even some middle schools have culinary programs, but a teaching kitchen isn't something you'll find at any area elementary schools.
Later this year, that will change when Cunningham Elementary school adds a 1,500-square foot teaching kitchen with a five-year grant from famed Food Network chef Emeril Lagasse and his Emeril Lagasse Foundation.
Under the management of Austin Ed Fund, this will be the third location for Emeril’s Culinary Garden & Teaching Kitchen, "a nationwide education initiative created to enrich the lives of elementary and middle school children through a fun, fresh perspective on food."
“My wife Alden and I are excited to welcome Cunningham Elementary School to the growing network of schools implementing our Foundation’s signature program,” Lagasse said in a release. “Emeril’s Culinary Garden & Teaching Kitchen provides the resources, tools and knowledge to succeed in and beyond the classroom. We are thrilled to bring it to Texas, a place where our Foundation’s footprint has expanded to over the years and where we remain committed and invested.”
Cunningham principal Heather Petruzzini says the school has more than 400 students that already benefit from a community garden that was installed in 2011 by a group of parents and that, in 2012, was one of the first recipients of a Whole Kids Foundation grant, but the new teaching kitchen and expanded culinary garden will help students learn core school subjects through growing and cooking food through a specialized curriculum that features some recipes from Lagasse himself.
The South Austin school will start construction on the kitchen later this year, and although they don't plan for it to be ready for the coming school year, Petruzzini says she hopes that it'll be ready sometime in 2020.
“This program goes beyond the classroom, expanding the education of our youth in a fun, relatable way,” Brian Kish, president of the Emeril Lagasse Foundation, said in a release. “Our landmark program is designed to allow children from all walks of life to prepare for their futures and fully immerse themselves in nutrition and food education.”
The first school to participate in the Emeril’s Culinary Garden & Teaching Kitchen was in Florida, followed by a second that is underway in Louisiana. The foundation hopes to have the program in 10 schools by 2023.