Staples Tots Take Top Chef Challenge

Last fall, Cecily Gans was watching “Top Chef Masters” on Bravo. Among the challenges: take a randomly selected food that most children hate — cottage cheese, anyone? — and create a recipe that kids would scarf down. The cast of Nick Jr.’s “Yo Gabba Gabba” came on the show, encouraged good eating habits, then watched as the boys and girls judged the top chefs’ creations.

Cecily was more than mildly interested. For one thing, she is a wildly popular culinary teacher at Staples High School.

For another, she has a daughter the same age as the kids on “Top Chef Masters.”

For a third, she’s worked with the tots who attend Staples’ adorable pre-school (part of Linda McClary’s child development classes).

You know where this story is heading.

Last month, Chef Gans’ advanced class conducted their own “Top Chef Masters” competition.

Brussel sproutsThe students — who spend the semester creating meals from local, seasonally available foods — drew ingredients out of a hat. They included butternut squash (yuck!), brussel sprouts (ugh!), tofu (ick!), cauliflower (blech!) and plain yogurt (gross!).

Each student then devised a unique recipe.

“It went extraordinarily well,” Cecily says. (Phew!)

The pre-schoolers eagerly tried new things. One girl ate everything: mac-and-cheese with tofu, butternut squash ravioli, you name it.

There was only one dud: roasted brussel sprouts with maple syrup glaze. Even all that sugar didn’t help.

The competition went so well, in fact, that Chef Gans is planning another, bigger version this spring.

Liver, anyone?

Click below for a report on the Top Chef Challenge, broadcast on the “Good Morning Staples” TV show. Click here if your browser does not take you directly to YouTube.


6 responses to “Staples Tots Take Top Chef Challenge

  1. Ilene Mirkine

    What a perfect collaborative effort…a win-win-win for all involved! Chef Gans is brilliant and an absolute gem. We are so fortunate to have her here in Westport working with our students (and preschoolers!), farmers market, homeless shelter – you name it.
    I look forward to hearing about her next big project. Thanks Dan, and thank you Chef Gans!

    • Thank you Ilene!! What an empowering and fabulous way to start the day!
      Big thanks to you Dan, and a special thank you to Linda McClary, who does such an amazing job with students of all ages! It is all very much a collaborative effort, can’t wait to do the Spring 2014 edition!!

  2. Save the brussel sprouts for me. I love them and also relish parsnips and turnips.

  3. Carol Guernsey

    What a fantastic opportunity for all involved! As a parent of a Playschool student, I am grateful for unique educational opportunities like this, that make Staples such an amazing place for learning.

  4. Holly Wheeler

    If I hadn’t had two sets of manners growing up, I never would have discovered some of my most favorite foods. Imagine going to a friend’s house for dinner at 10 years old and finding that my own ‘personal’ salad was half of an avocado filled with dressing. Gulp.