Kitchen ABCs at a Madison Middle School

A master chef, a room full of seventh graders, and a salsa garden. That's just the beginning.

| April 2009

  • Kithcen ABCs in Madison
    Chef Tory Miller and his students at Sherman Middle School in Madison, Wisconsin.
    Image by Liliane Calfee-Miller

  • Kithcen ABCs in Madison

Visit Sherman Middle School in Madison, Wisconsin on a Monday afternoon and you’ll likely be tempted to follow your nose—up the stairs to the second floor and down the hallway a few doors to the right.

There the smells of sizzling garlic and onions and simmering vegetable stock waft out of a classroom’s open doors. Inside, Chef Tory Miller—clad in a bleach white chef’s jacket, baggy cotton pants, and kitchen clogs, his jet black Mohawk neatly gelled to a point—holds up a mystery vegetable to his third class of the day, a group of fidgety seventh graders with aprons draped around their necks.

“Anybody know what this is?” he asks.

“Kohlrabi?” guesses one student. Not quite. “Avocado?” tries another. No. “Something edible?” Well, yes.

“This is called celery root,” Miller tells them, a starchy, sweet vegetable that is among the ingredients in a tomato vegetable soup the class will be making today. The students nod, no one cringes. Next he holds up a scarlet turnip and a handful of frost-sweetened spinach. He cuts up a carrot in slow motion, instructing the kids to “remember the claw” to avoid nicks.

Every other Monday, Miller teaches Sherman seventh graders the tools of his trade, which also happen to be the tools of healthy eating—cooking skills, an appetite for fresh fruits and vegetables, and a well-rounded knowledge of local, seasonal produce.

Young Kim
4/20/2009 12:06:04 PM

While I support Miller's efforts to introduce healthy foods to the palates of children, I have to take exception to his disparaging comments about Milwaukee. Contrary to the prevailing stereotypes about our city (i.e., bratwurst, beer, cheese, the Fonz, etc.) the Healthy Food Movement is alive and well in Milwaukee. Will Allen of Growing Power was recently named a McArthur Foundation Fellow for his pioneering work in urban agriculture and aquaculture. Urban gardening plots are popping up all over the inner city. People are rediscovering the pleasures of beekeeping and honey production. My own agency has the Girls Chef Academy - a culinary education program for middle school girls - along with Cooking Clubs, which will launch in July. Sincerely, Young Kim Executive Director Fondy Food Center Milwaukee, WI

Stephen Wehrenberg
4/1/2009 1:29:02 PM

The worst school meal I ever saw was ... well, there's the problem! I have no idea what it was!