If you assembled an all-star team of your favorite chefs in metro Phoenix, it might look a lot like the roster of chefs involved with The Blue Watermelon Project. Formed in 2017, affiliated with the Phoenix chapter of Slow Food, the group aims to educate students about growing, cooking, vegetables, food costs, and other practical culinary subjects – the goal being to nudge students toward kitchen fluency.
Chefs show up to schools. They prep ingredients with kids. They cook. They teach. Through hands-on demos, students soak up a kind of wisdom more useful in the day-to-day than graphing parabolas.
From 1 to 4 p.m. on Saturday, January 26, the Blue Watermelon Project will be hosting Feeding the Future, a fundraising event that will showcase what the kids have learned. It will also double as a kind of exam. Together with the chefs who have been mentoring them, six teams of students will be preparing dishes at The Farm at South Mountain. Fundraiser attendees will vote on favorites. Members of winning squads will be awarded scholarships by Blue Watermelon.
The event will take place in the farm's pecan grove.
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Teams include students from Chandler High School paired with Charleen Badman (FnB); students from Deer Valley High School paired with Butch Raphael (executive chef at Phoenix Children's Hospital); and students from Mesa high school paired with Tamara Stanger (Cotton & Copper) and Sasha Raj (24 Carrots). In addition, other Blue Watermelon chefs will be on hand to sling appetizers, sides, and desserts.
"The winning dish will actually be made at their school," Badman says. "These kids are really creative. They've but a lot of thought into it."
The dishes these teams plan to prepare, like a meatless chili and a Monte Cristo, will have to adhere to tight budgetary and nutritional constraints, just like the ones facing school cafeterias. Students will be preparing their dishes for judges. Their chefs will be preparing separate dishes that riff on the student dishes. The professional chef dishes will be the ones served to event attendees.
Tickets cost $79. They include two drinks from Dos Cabezas WineWorks as well as other local beverage artisans. All proceeds flow back to the Blue Watermelon Project.