Bite of Brainfood Blog

Midsummer Fun

From Guest Blogger Matt Grunewald, Brainfood summer intern…

This week at Brainfood was one filled with learning new skills.  At the beginning of the week we learned about cross-contamination and the importance of keeping a safe cooking space.  This was accompanied with many new chicken recipes, and with the rapidly progressing cooking skills of all the participants, these recipes were handled with ease and came out tasting delicious.  Once again Brainfood returned to the new MyPlate recommendations and learned a lot about whole grains.  After learning all about the many different types of whole grains we got down to cooking, making many tasty creations with whole grains that many of us had never heard of.  Finishing up this week we made some quick and healthy snacks, such as salsa and hummus with homemade chips, and then went on our first field trip to the Penn Quarter FRESHFARM Market, where we split into groups and toured the farmers market, talking with many of the vendors and buying some fresh, locally grown and harvested produce and meat.  We learned quite a bit about farmers’ markets and the differences and benefits of shopping at them as opposed to large super markets, and got to sample some surprisingly flavorful samples.

Gurus we're not, but boy do we love to talk about work

What's one of the few things that's more fun than meeting fun, diverse, passionate high school youth each year?  Getting to know weekly classroom assistants who are equally fun, diverse, and passionate about supporting DC youth in the kitchen and beyond.  We've had lawyers, college students, non-profit folk, and nutritionists volunteer with Brainfood and enrich our programs with their energy and interests. 

Classroom assistants are a huge part of what makes our well-oiled machine, well, oiled.  So when Ashley Rasmussen, one of the Chinatown classroom assistants from 2010, requested to interview me for a blogpost on nutrition, cooking, and high school students, I was happy to help her out.   Also -- check out the sleek and colorful Nutrition Gurus site for streamlined tips and articles on health and well-being. 

Thanks again Ashley for the interview, and for keeping Brainfood on your radar!

Forging ahead with Knife Skills

From Guest Blogger Zoe Middleton, Brainfood summer intern…

The Fourth of July holiday made for a short second week at the Brainfood Summer Institute.  Whatever Brainfood participants might have lost in time was amply made up for in new skills acquired.   Upon their return to the kitchen on Tuesday, students were (carefully) handed their chef’s knives and instructed on knife safety and the finer points of dicing an onion along with an overview of French cuts (batonette, chiffonade, julienne to name a few).   Building on their new knowledge, students honed their skills over the next two days on a range items that proved both familiar (oven baked fries) and foreign (fruit gazpacho).

Summer has begun: Week 1 recap

From Guest Blogger Matt Grunewald, Brainfood summer intern…

The first week of Brainfood Summer Institute was very successful, with everyone familiarizing themselves with the kitchen and learning new baking skills.  After an introduction day and baking oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, we all dove right in to baking on Tuesday, making many delectable creations, such as almost vegan pumpkin chocolate chip muffins, and sweet potato biscuits: with the delicious smells of the baked goods wafting through the kitchen over the laughs and jokes of all of the group participants, most of whom didn’t know each other just two days before.


Catalogue for Philanthropy has 7 Questions for Brainfood

The Catalogue for Philanthropy is truly a non-profit's non-profit.  Since 2003, they have been an essential resource to both donors and funders who want to invest in "high impact, carefully evaluated, community-based nonprofits with budgets below $3 million."  The catalogue's vetting process provides a streamlined tool to evaluate organizations, and their catalogue publication helps raise awareness for smaller organizations that often lack the resources to launch large media campaigns.  Holding small non-profits accountable is a service that benefits the field, as well as a trend that we hope continues to grow with the assistance of third-party evaluators like the Catalogue for Philantrhopy. 

Brainfood was honored to be selected for the 2008-2009 catalogue and to be listed alongside innovative small non-profits that continue to do great work in the DC area.  We were also honored that Julia Cain from CFP checked in with Carina for their 7 Questions blog feature.

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!

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