Richmond Students Thrive
in the Kitchen and Garden
Fifteen Richmond high schoolers learned to plant, cook, and arrive on time during a new after-school apprenticeship program that combines gardening, cooking, and job readiness.
“I went outside of my comfort zone to try something new,” says Plant to Plate participant Samuel Solis, now a senior at Middle College High School. Solis appreciated the mindfulness activities at the start of each session, as well as learning how to write his first resume, grow vegetables, follow a recipe, and use an oven.
Plant to Plate is a project of the nonprofit West County DIGS (Developing Instructional Gardens in Schools). Master Gardener Kelli Barram wrote the curriculum and led the teaching, with cooking instruction by Richmond chef Arnon Oren. During twice-weekly sessions over four months, students spent time in the Assemble Restaurant garden adjacent to the Craneway Pavilion and at Oren’s Kitchen, the chef’s eponymous catering business. The students planted radishes, zucchini, and cucumber, and the radishes grew in time for the students to use them in preparing dishes. Next year, organizers hope to start earlier in the fall to allow more time for plant growth.
“The students were interested in learning about nutrition and healthy eating,” says Chef Oren, who taught basic knife skills, simple dishes, and other kitchen fundamentals. Most of the graduates are college bound, and several are working for Chef Oren on catering jobs this summer. He notes that food professionals including baker Alice Medrich came in to share their stories with the students, providing yet another important lesson: There are many ways to succeed and have a career.