Eco Top Chef is a program for students to learn about the link between food, health, and the environment. Teams of middle school students and professional chefs delve into sustainable agriculture, ingredient sourcing, food labeling, and healthy recipes – to create fresh, local, organic, seasonal, sustainable, and non-GMO meals that can be served in a school dining program. Students participants express an interest in healthy food, food equity, and sustainability and walk away with a clear understanding of how food choices in homes, schools, and communities affect public health and the planet.
Running for three successful years in Marin County, California, the semester-long program consists of six meetings: four interactive field trips and two planning sessions with their partner chef. Field trips include a visit to the Green Gulch Farm, San Rafael Sunday Farmer’s Market with the Agricultural Institute of Marin, a green grocer tour, and a visit to the restaurant of their partner chef.
Student/chef teams are tasked with developing a full menu that meets school food budgets and far exceeds USDA nutritional values and standard recommendations. The strict program criteria is based on Teens Turning Green’s The Conscious Kitchen.
The culminating event is the Eco Top Chef Challenge at the end of each semester. In partnership with their lead chef, each team prepares a four-course menu based on wisdom acquired over the course of the program and presents their menu to a panel of judges. One team is selected as the Champion. Peers, family, school faculty, and community members are invited to attend the Challenge and share in a tasting following the presentation. TTG’s aim is to see healthy, sustainable food choices integrated into school food programs across the country.
Eco Top Chef Marin Participating Schools
Kent Middle School, Kentfield
Marin Country Day School, Corte Madera
Bayside MLK Academy, Marin City
San Domenico Middle School, San Anselmo
White Hill Middle School, Fairfax
Willow Creek Academy, Sausalito
Eco Top Chef Marin Participating Chefs
Maggie Weber-Striplin Head Chef, The Conscious Kitchen, Marin City
Jason Hull Executive Chef, Marin Country Day School, Corte Madera
Sebastian Lowrey Executive Chef, Piatti, Mill Valley
Sascha Weiss Executive Chef, The Plant Café Organic, Mill Valley
Brian Bowen Chef de Cuisine, Cavallo Point Lodge, Sausalito
Tera and Alfredo Ancona Owners and Executive Chef, Cibo, Sausalito
Goals and Rewards:
- Engage students, and teachers in collaborative work to transition school food programs from conventional to sustainable
- Inform all participants about the benefits of fresh, local, organic, seasonal, sustainable, non-GMO food
- Highlight the meaning and importance of “locally grown” through farm and farmers market field trips
- Develop student skills to become strong advocates for fresh produce and food options in school dining facilities, lunch, and snack programs
- Ensure understanding of the direct relationship between the healthy food and a healthy mind, body, and soul
Benefit for Students:
- Increased wisdom about the importance of eating fresh, local, organic, seasonal fruits and vegetables
- Adoption of healthier eating habits and spreading the word
- Openness to trying new foods and choosing healthier, high-quality foods more often
- Knowledge from chefs about food preparation, how to read and follow a recipe, and food safety
- Engagement in a leadership opportunity and the opportunity to share with peers and community
- Introduction to the Teens Turning Green organization along with opportunities for social action projects