Bite of Brainfood Blog

What We've Been Up to: Picnics and Planning

The short window of time between the end of Brainfood After School and the beginning of the Summer Institute is always a little hectic at Brainfood.  Hard-working interns are suddenly wrapping up long term projects, students are graduating, and there's an entire summer program to plan.  The biggest news from Brainfood headquarters these days is our latest day assisting at the White House and our upcoming Summer Institute. 

State Fair on the South Lawn
It's picnic and grilling season again! And for 8 enthusiastic Brainfood graduates, it meant that they got to kick off their summer by assisting at one of the biggest summer cookouts in town: the White House's annual Congressional Picnic.

Brainfood Graduation 2011

Have you ever thrown a dinner party for 160 guests? Made 3 original dishes on a single burner in 70 minutes?  Or had your cooking judged on creativity, taste, and presentation by a formidable and esteemed panel of judges? 

If you answered yes to one of these questions, the Brainfood staff is very impressed (and a little curious about your day job.) If you answered yes to more than one question there’s a 100% chance that you’re a Brainfood graduate. 

But in the most likely event that large scale food production and cooking competitions are not part of your daily routine, here are a few snapshots that capture the energy and excitement of an exceptionally food-filled day at Brainfood.

Beef and Broccoli was prepped by students the day before, and dished up to hungry guests.


Out of the kitchen, into the market

From Guest Blogger Ibti Vincent, weekly volunteer at our Columbia Heights site...
The blog is also posted at

Since my return from Nebraska, it seems like most of my waking hours have been spent gardening and perusing farmers' markets. Now that we're coming into the height of the growing season, it seems that there is a farmers' market (or two) nearly every day of the week. My favorite market stop of the week was on Thursday: my first ever visit to the Penn Quarter market, where I had been asked to photograph the first Brainfood student market demo -- something of a sneak preview of Brainfood's exciting second-year program starting next fall, which focuses on peer-led food education and outreach. (How cool is that??)

No utensils allowed

From Guest Blogger Ibti Vincent, weekly volunteer at our Columbia Heights site...
The blog is also posted at

So, right, I seem to be slacking a bit on the blogging. Okay, okay, you're right. Even in the midst of the absorbing job of developing and managing the first mobile farmers' market here in the District, there are some things that should remain sacred. I even missed the men's college basketball final this year, if that gives you any sense of the (somewhat controlled) chaos that is my life these days.

One thing that I have managed to keep up is the favorite part of my week: Tuesdays at Brainfood! I've been especially excited lately, with two special guest visits from professional chefs and the shift in focus beyond basic cooking skills to delving into the preparation of cuisine from various countries around the world. Yesterday, as I took a deep breath in an attempt to shed the stress of the workday, I opened the door to smiling student faces and a stash of unusual ingredients about the kitchen. Mmmm, yes, this was going to be good. Ahhhh....

Grand Hyatt wins $20,000 for Brainfood!

Brainfood wants to send a big thank you to the Grand Hyatt in Washington DC.

In Feburary, Hyatt staff and Executive Chef of Cure Bar and Bistro Kevin Villalovos stopped by our kitchen to present us with a $20,000 donation. Grand Hyatt and Brainfood were recipients of the Annual Hyatt Community Award.

The Grand Hyatt and Brainfood have been partnering up over the last year making multiple food donations, kitchen equipment donations and visits by their Executive Chef Villalovos. You can read more about Chef Kevin's class visits here and here:

Thank you Grand Hyatt! We appeciate your support!

Sauces Galore

From Guest Blogger Hannah Ziegler, Spring Intern

It was once said “It is the sauce that distinguishes a good chef.  The saucier is a soloist in the orchestra of a great kitchen.” 

Brainfood had no soloist saucier, but the students at Columbia Heights (Tuesday/Thursday class) did construct a fantastic orchestra composed of talented string, bass, woodwind and percussion sections.  Working together to create a diverse array of sauces, they challenged pronunciation skills as well as cooking skills.  The students made an herbed Béchamel sauce to top tender turkey cutlets, homemade marinara sauce to dip in delicious garlic bread, hollandaise sauce to cover freshly steamed broccoli, and a Crème Anglaise to smother decadent molten chocolate cake.

This is Real Cooking!

From Guest Blogger Hannah Ziegler, Spring 2011 Intern

Feed your mind and the rest will follow....

From Guest Blogger Ibti Vincent, weekly volunteer at our Columbia Heights site...
The blog is also posted at

During my first volunteer shift with Brainfood -- quite possibly my favorite after school food education program in the city-- the focus was on whole grains. (What are the chances? I worry that I'm going to develop a reputation as someone obsessed with roughage. I swear I'm not. Though it is important to include in a healthy diet....) As I stood by as an adult mentor, students chopped and grilled and roasted quite the feast, in this case millet burgers, quinoa salad, a hearty veggie chili, and some forbidden rice with coconut milk. Yum. You must guess by now that the way to my heart is directly through my tummy: I've been volunteering with the same group of young adult from high schools around the city every Tuesday night since.

How about them knife skills?

So now that it's December, our intrepid students have had a good two and a half months to get comfortable with a 10-inch chef's knife and some even more unwieldy French vocab as they've ploughed through the Brainfood knife skills crash course.

They've put in so much hard work; even though perfecting knife skills is a life long quest, it only seems fair to take a moment and appreciate how very far they've come already.

Slicing eggplant, Binni hiding out behind the prep bowl

Perfect zucchini half-moons, hail to the dice

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