Apples to Zucchini

Young Chefs of the Apples to Zucchini Cooking School Dive into the Joy of Cooking

Nancy Martz developed a passion for good food and cooking when she was nine years old. “I was a picky eater and constantly adapting recipes to incorporate what I liked into the family meals,” she said. “It was too much for my mother to adjust everything to my discerning palate.” Her interest in cuisine runs in the family, her grandfather and uncle being professional chefs, and deepened as she took advantage of opportunities to travel and increase her knowledge of world cuisines and the importance of good healthy food selection and preparation.

As a businesswoman, advocate and philanthropist, Martz is sensitive to the many social issues facing Santa Barbara County including a spike in food insecurity and its effect on children. Determined to seize an opportunity to educate youngsters about the benefits of good food and the fun involved in connecting eating with selecting and preparing food, Martz created the Apples to Zucchini Cooking School which is a fiscally sponsored organization under the umbrella of the Santa Barbara Foundation. They are offering a camp this summer, and in the fall, they will be teaching after-school enrichment classes at three schools in Santa Barbara and Goleta, with plans to expand to all schools who want the classes.

Apples to Zucchini teaches children and their families how to prepare delicious, nutritious, affordable meals made from real food. The classes are taught by professional chefs who impart their expertise to the students who are taught a variety of skills and cooking techniques, such as knife skills, sautéing techniques, plate presentation and of course, food selection and tasting.

Just before summer break, we visited the young chefs-in-training at work in their kitchen/school lab. They had been charged to make dinner for their parents. They zealously embraced the challenge and whipped up Guatemalan-inspired soft chicken tacos dressed with a rich-red paste called achiote and accompanied by a Mango salad with jicama and locally-sourced black beans.

As we witnessed, the children take on every stage of the food preparation, cooking, presenting, and clean-up. They pressed tortillas made from scratch with masa, hand-juiced lemons, and carefully plated the chicken and beans with a clean swipe around the edge of the dishes.

“The classes are designed for every child because while the recipes are delicious, they are not overly complicated. We are exposing them to delicious food, nutritious food and emphasize that it can be affordable for all families,” shared Martz.

Inspiring kids and parents to cook, and stoking their curiosity for food and how it is sourced goes a long way towards educating the community on health, food systems, and even budgeting around meals. That’s why the Santa Barbara Foundation supports efforts like the Apples to Zucchini Cooking School. Senior Director of Community Investments, Sharyn Main, who is co-developer of a county-wide food action plan and creator of the LEAF (Landscapes, Ecosystems, Agriculture and Food Systems) Initiative affirms the effort, “An educated, inspired community will make healthier choices, be more involved in food-related environmental issues, and simply, like the kids and parents at Brandon School, will enjoy food more, and be happier and healthier for it.”
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