Eating their way to an education


BY Aline Reynolds

First graders at P.S. 234 are getting an inside look at the restaurant business as part of their social studies class. Most recently they were found munching on hot brick oven pizza at a long rectangular table at City Winery in Hudson Square. They were there to get an insiders’ tour of the winery.

The field trip was part of a four-month study of restaurants. “Through studying restaurants, the kids develop more of an understanding of something that fulfills the need in the larger community,” said P.S. 234 homeroom teacher Madeline Chang.

The kids interviewed the winery’s executive chef, Andres Barrera after the pizza lunch.

“How did you learn how to become a chef?” one of them asked. “When I was your age, I used to help my parents out in the kitchen,” Barrera said.

Two students said they do the same. “You could all become chefs, then!” Barrera replied.

He then distinguished between the roles of a chef and a cook, and told the children how he landed the job at the only winery in the borough of Manhattan.

The children also asked Barrera how and where he gets his daily supplies. “All the food comes from mostly New York State,” he said. “I try to buy my food from close by, so it doesn’t take too long to get here.”

Barrera also explained how the goods are delivered by truck to the winery every morning.

“How do you mix the wine?” another student asked. Barrera explained the process of pouring eight tons of fruit into the conveyer built, where the grapes are crushed and turned into liquid.

The youngsters proceeded to take a tour of the winery. “We showed them a little bit of the ropes,” said Michael Dorf, chief executive officer of the winery, whose daughter Sophia is in P.S. 234’s first grade class. “We got to see the grapes going in the conveyer belt – that was exciting for them.”

Prior to the winery trip, the students interviewed a waitress at Sazon restaurant in Tribeca. “The kids generated questions like, ‘what’s hard about your job,’ ‘who do you have to work with,’ and ‘what helps you do your job’” Chang said.

Next week, the youngsters will chat via Skype to the owner of Cake Café and Bakery in New Orleans to learn about the daily grind of a restaurateur. The youngsters will also be visiting Landmarc restaurant in Tribeca and the Bari Restaurant Equipment Corporation in SoHo to learn how neighborhood restaurants procure their supplies.

Chang also hopes to squeeze in a trip to Square Diner in Chinatown.

“It’s a restaurant that reflects the community they’re in,” she said.

At the end of the semester in mid-December, the first graders will create their own restaurant on school grounds. “They’ll prepare the food in school the day before, and they’ll fill out applications to tell me why they think they’re qualified for a particular [restaurant] job,” Chang said. She’ll be inviting Dorf and other parents as customers on “restaurant day.”

Dorf called the project a “fantastic” idea. “It gives the kids a chance to try and build a mock one and reinforce what they gathered when they did the actual site visit,” he said.