Bite of Brainfood Blog

"Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind", Creativity, and Backup Plans

“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.” – Zen Master Shunryo Suzuki

As a youth worker, I am always learning from the amazing young people in our programs. One of the best things about working with teens is the fact that every class, every conversation, and every unique group of students has its own gems of wisdom to impart, whether I realize it at the time or not. And this summer, our students have been teaching me about Zen.  Maybe these high school students don’t consider themselves Zen masters, but as I’ve been reflecting on Summer Institute so far, one theme that these teens clearly have a lot to teach me about is the concept of “beginner’s mind.”

A Peek at Our Summer Harvest

Blog post by Elizabeth Packer, Box Project Intern

Summer is in full swing here at Brainfood. At Box Project, we're busy putting the finishing touches on our third box of the summer and preparing for our 15 clients to come pick them up. This week's box theme is Hungry Hungry Hippie, which means lots of veggie goodness. And the best part about cooking in the summer? The abundance of delicious produce the season brings. 

I'm spending my summer at Brainfood both working in the garden and assisting with Box Project, and it's nice to see our youth incorporating vegetables from our garden into the food they prepare for our clients and themselves. Throughout the week, our young chefs have had the chance to visit the garden and harvest a range of ingredients, from herbs like basil and parsley to veggies like eggplant and dragon tongue beans. The walk from our kitchen to the garden takes about 2 minutes—it doesn't get more local than this! 

Take a look at some of the beauties we currently have growing in the garden, and stay tuned as the season progresses to see what else we're harvesting. 

Welcome to Summer

Welcome to Summer Institute 2015! We have amazing students who are fun, spirited, and masters of the kitchen. Check out some of the awesome things we have been doing so far!        

What do Usher, Mike Tyson, and Brainfood’s beet cupcakes have in common?


I’ll give you a hint: they also share this common theme with Bill Clinton and Ellen Degeneres.


'How to Read a Recipe' To Chef's Challenge: A Year at Brainfood

Those of us who are Brainfood program staffers have been navigating some serious empty nest syndrome over the past few weeks. It seems like just yesterday we took our first Costco trip of the year, and now many of our teen participants are studying for final exams, heading off to college orientations, and/or preparing for summer jobs.
First Costco shop of the year!
The month of May was a whirlwind as one of our afterschool programs, Kitchen All Stars, came to a close for the year with a festive graduation celebration and an abundance of tasty food. After the streamers fell and the last dishes were washed and returned to storage, we found ourselves with quiet kitchens and an opportunity to take a step back and reflect on the year behind us. It’s hard to believe how much our teens have grown, both as individuals and cohorts, since they entered Brainfood’s doors last fall. They have so many accomplishments to be proud of, and we as their instructors are proud to share them with you.

Red, White + Brew!

This week, Brainfood was thrilled to be the non-profit beneficiary for an event hosted by Charlie Palmer Steak DC called “American Fare: Red, White + Brew.” The event featured  four DC Brewers: 3 Stars Brewing Company, Atlas Brew Works, DC Brau Brewing Company, and Port City Brewing Company, showcasing creative craft beers paired with menu items from Chef Jeff Russell’s "Jeff-to-Table" menu, each dish featuring farm-to-table ingredients sourced from a garden just a few miles away from the restaurant.
The event was truly a celebration of “all things grown and made right here in Washington, DC,”  which is right up our alley! Many of the brewers, chefs, guests, and others involved with the event clearly have a penchant for local food, and we had lots of great conversations about urban gardening, empowering youth as agents of change in their local food communities, and culinary education as part of the movement to transform the food system. 


Recipes for Success

This spring has been a very exciting time for all of us at Brainfood with the launch of Brainfood Homegrown: our new food venture that offers high-quality produce, healthy snacks, and meal inspiration while providing a launching pad for Brainfood graduates who want to build professional skills and connect with the city’s growing food community. At the new Brainfood Homegrown stand in Union Market, you can purchase Community Support Agriculture (CSA) shares, a la carte produce, and some prepared snack foods by Francisco, talented chef and Brainfood graduate.

If you haven’t already dropped by to check us out, we encourage you to visit our stand on Saturdays or Sundays from 11 am to 6 pm!

Maximizing Garden Harvests: Pest Management Tips and Commonly Overlooked Delectables


The garden boasts exciting new harvests after months of spring greens, kale and carrots. Strawberries are ripening, raspberries are reddening, and snap peas are practically popping off the vines even as their plants continue to climb the trellis towards the sun. 

But beware, we gardeners are not the only ones excited about the flourishing abundance! Constant vigilance is the surest way to ensure those pesky pests don’t eat all our hard work. Consider including the following tasks in your garden routine if you don’t already have a defense strategy employed:

Kitchen All Stars Graduation!

Last Thursday, we celebrated the end of Kitchen All Stars with our annual Chef’s Challenge cooking competition and graduation. We welcomed not only all of our Kitchen All Stars students, but also family and friends, Weekly Classroom Assistants from every site and section of Kitchen All Stars, lots of special event volunteers from Corporate Executive Board, and three guest judges: Sonny Goyal (The Advisory Board Company), Jen Koide (Blackboard) and Jennifer McDivitt (Poste Moderne Brasserie). It’s always so special to welcome community partners to get a taste of our programs, see all of our fabulous Weekly Classroom Assistants in one place, and, of course, see the youth in our programs sharing Brainfood with family and friends. It was a very full, busy, and festive afternoon!

A Whole New (Garden) World


Look at our garden, isn’t it neat?  Wouldn’t you think our collection’s complete?

We’ve got garlic and kale a-plenty… 

We’ve got radish and pumpkins galore… 

You want pole beans? We’ve got twenty…






But who cares? No big deal. We want more….




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