“As a farm-to-table cooking class and camp, we are unique in a sense that we emphasize how our ingredients are grown from seed to table.At each class we highlight the local farmers who provide our ingredients, its connection to the earth, as well as seasonality and sustainability. After each class, we even bring our food scraps to the local composter.We conclude each kids class with a thank you to the farmers who supply our food and to the student chefs who made the meal possible!” Jennifer Lisondra.
Butter Beans, a New York City-based company serving over 400 students and campers every year, provides the type of education that any parent would want for their child. With their focus on healthy meals, the company teaches kids what it means to be a conscientious chef.
Offerings include after school classes, workshops in the classroom, kids’ and adults’ hands-on cooking classes, and summer camp. The goal is to help entire families to shed old habits and regroup around the table.
According to Butter Beans, “We like to share the joy of cooking with everybody! We welcome those especially in the “fast food” movement who would like to take a moment to pause, and experience the “slow food” way of cooking.”
The pride and joy of Butter Beans is their extensive Food & Garden Summer Camp for kids. “Along the way, campers explore the full spectrum of the food cycle through activities like planting seeds, harvesting fresh food, and visiting bees atop rooftop farms, to cooking seasonal summer lunches, and writing their own cookbooks.” says Lisondra.
Not only do kids prepare their own lunches every single day during the course of camp (a great plus for parents, who may no longer need to pack their kids’ lunches on school nights!), they also learn about each and every facet of the food process, from seed to compost. They are sure to gain valuable knowledge in the realms of culinary skill, food planting and harvesting, nutrition, diminishing waste, and overall understanding an thankfulness for everything they put on their plate. From “churning seasonal gelato” to “harvesting herbs to bake in focaccia dough”, kids get to feel connected to every part of the process. With a teacher-to-student ratio of five-to-one at most, the camp is very personalized for each child.
“One of the amazing parts of the Butter Beans camp is watching the inner Chef de Cuisine come out in all of our campers. Campers use fresh ingredients that they purchased at local farmers’ markets to create recipes for different lunches and snacks throughout the week. It is fascinating to watch young chefs mix flavors that turn out delicious, combinations that most adults would have never even considered!” says Lisondra.
For the lucky six to ten year olds who will get to become a camper with Butter Beans, tuition is set at $3,600 for six weeks, down to as low as $1,400 for two weeks at the Manhattan location. The Brooklyn location is $3,300 for all six weeks, and down to as low as $1250 for two weeks. Payment plans and scholarships are also available.
A day in the life of a Butter Beans camper goes a little something like this: 9:00 am begins the morning with a stretch, light warm-up games for exercise, and a moment to say “Good morning!”.
Campers are encouraged to express what they want to learn that day, and are briefed on all of their daily activities. Mid-morning time is chock-full of food fun. Campers may start out with some food prep for a treat to be enjoyed later in the day, or even go on a field trip to an urban rooftop garden or local bee keeper! Afternoons are for physical activities and fun. Water balloon fights aren’t unheard of as an item on the itinerary. Plenty of snacks– that the kids made themselves, of course– come out during the afternoon for an extra energy boost. When it’s almost time to go home, campers gather with their counselors to share their favorite learning moment of the day.
Kids and parents alike may also enjoy year-round cooking classes with Butter Beans. These courses aim to teach everything down to the most basic techniques. Each dish is completely handmade, utilizing local seasonal ingredients. The school strives for top-notch nutrition balance as well. Whole grains, fruits, veggies, legumes, high-quality meats, and healthy sources of fat are the core elements of each meal.
Courses are introductory, with no experience required. The most important take-away from learning with Butter Beans should be an appreciation for the health and joy surrounding farm-to-table cooking.
According to Butter Beans, “Each of our classes provide student & adult chefs the opportunity to experience the full breadth of meal preparation, from julienning carrots and rolling handmade pasta dough to setting the table and enjoying a homemade meal.”
Don’t misinterpret the approachable and simple message behind Butter Beans as lackluster; rest assured that the courses being offered to kids and adults sound exceedingly colorful and interesting.
Kids can choose from themes like Cinco de Mayo Fiesta featuring menu items like fresh guacamole and Beet Green quesadillas, Mother’s Day Brunch with Croque Madame and chocolate chip zucchini cookies, Taste of the Italian Countryside with roasted sweet potato ravioli and pesto pasta salad, or Summer Picnic with herb couscous salad and strawberry rhubarb turnovers.
Adults have just as many fun options, except their classes also come with a complimentary glass of wine. The adults get a Cinco de Mayo Fiesta complete with fresh corn tamales and fruit guacamole, Rustic Italian Handmade Pasta with potato gnocchi with kale pesto and ricotta ravioli with wild mushroom sauce, Spanish Tapas with papatas bravas and roasted cauliflower and manchego empanadas, Thai Take-Out with vegetable pad thai and coconut curry soup, Pizza Night with ham and caramelized onion pizza and classic Margherita pizza, and even Brunch for Dinner with whole wheat Dutch baby and avocado toast with tomato and pumpkin seeds.
As Butter Beans says, “It is designed to help the pickiest of eaters explore healthy foods and even for foodies to expand their culinary prowess. At each class, there is something to be gained, whether it is a new knife cutting skill or realization that you just needed a break from take-out.”