It’s not every middle school student that has the opportunity to experience lessons with pros from The Lark, Chocolate Maya, lobster fisherman James Voss, and Santa Barbara City College’s Culinary Arts teacher Charlie Fredericks. But then again, Santa Barbara Middle School is not just any school.
Under the direction of Pierre (PA) Tremblay, SBMS alum and the former chef de cuisine at Julienne, the school’s already impressive culinary program is set to expand into an industrial teaching kitchen that will both prepare school meals and provide cooking classes to students. This new kitchen will also host summer camps and adult cooking classes and welcome other schools to come learn, all while partnering with community seafood and farm programs.
“I am a little crazy about food, but behind this obsession is an even more profound desire to positively impact the community through educating and sharing the importance of cooking,” said Tremblay. “Food is nothing new to our species, and the way we’ve enjoyed it also hasn’t changed much. Most of the time, we sat around fires or tables in community to eat, and it is only recently that this has changed.” For Tremblay, that means there is a need to educate people about the importance of food beyond simply knowing our fruits and vegetables. He helps students understand “what food brings into our daily lives and our global cultures.”
The campus gardens serve as a living classroom, where students learn about sustainable food production, pollinator habitats, native biodiversity, composting, and more. In addition, each student takes three extended school trips per year, which utilize a family meal system where teachers, students, and parent chaperones are organized into families that eat together and share thoughts about their day. “During the trips, we also bring students into the kitchen as ‘Cook Crew’ to help prepare the meal, practicing all skills important to the culinary arts,” said Tremblay. “Yes, that means cleaning too!”
His plans include a cooking elective course that covers topics such as sanitation and safety as well as baking, knife skills, butchery, preserving, the “Mother Sauces,” spherification, and much more. There are also “Life Skills” blocks that teach students about nutrition and meal planning. An “Exploring Food in Santa Barbara” class includes visits to Fairview Gardens, truffle-making with Chocolate Maya, learning about coffee from the French Press, volunteering at the soup kitchen, and seeing how chefs from Loquita prepare for their best dishes.
Tremblay’s passion plays into the SBMS motto, which is “Because of us them, because of them us.” Said Tremblay, “I know the teaching kitchen is a unique opportunity at SBMS, which will encourage the youth of the school and beyond to step forward. I can’t help but feel an enormous amount of gratitude to do the work I do, and in turn I want to give back what I have been given.”
Green Empress Salad Dressing
by Amy Love and PA Tremblay
Here’s a recipe that Amy Love improved on the spot, impressing Tremblay by noting that a little spice would really make the vinaigrette beautiful.
20g Thai basil, de-stemmed
15g jalapeño, de-seeded
400ml coconut cream
100ml rice vinegar
50ml white vinegar
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
Chop the ginger into small pieces and put all ingredients except the vinegars and mirin into the Vitamix. Blend on high and drizzle in the vinegar and mirin.