Delicious and nutritious: Chefs teach Tommie Barfield Elementary students to cook nutritional meals

Tommie Barfield Elementary School

101 Kirkwood Street, Marco

— Students at Tommie Barfield Elementary School on Marco Island had a hands-on and mouths-open learning experience during Culinary Arts Day on Tuesday morning.

The school invited three chefs from local restaurants to participate in the culinary and nutrition-centered workshop by showing the students how to make a healthy, four-course meal.

“It just stinks that I really like salad, and I’ve never learned how to make it,” said 10-year-old Jessica Leithauser, who learned how to make a salad with French vinaigrette dressing from Denis Meurgue, a chef at Bistro Soleil.

Meurgue let the children who had never eaten salad before measure and whisk together the salad dressing ingredients, which included red wine vinegar, vegetable oil and French Dijon mustard.

“I learned that you can make dressing however you want,” said 9-year-old Giana Orlando, whose favorite salad ingredients were the cucumbers and tomatoes. “I always eat salad.”

The interdisciplinary presentations taught the third-, fourth- and fifth-graders about healthy eating, the nutritional value of certain foods, the food pyramid, measuring ingredients and some cooking basics.

“I learned that you should have vegetables instead of like fries and ketchup and stuff like that,” Leithauser said.

The students split up into three groups of about 20 children and rotated from classroom to classroom where each chef taught them how to make a different snack. After watching and helping the chefs work their culinary magic, the students got a chance to taste the ice cream, salad, chicken wraps and fruit and vegetable juice fusion.

“It ties into their health curriculum,” said Lisa Braren, a music teacher at the school who helped organize the event. “It also ties into their math and science curriculum.”

Culinary Arts Day kicked off with Merle Floyd, the school’s cafeteria manager, teaching the kids about the six food groups and how different foods can be good for the body in different ways, such as how eating fruits and vegetables can reduce an individual’s risk of developing type II diabetes and heart disease.

After Floyd’s presentation, the children made ice cream by vigorously shaking small Ziploc bags containing milk, sugar and vanilla inside a large Ziploc bag filled with ice.

“This is the way Frosty the Snowman makes ice cream for his family,” Floyd said.

Many of the children said their favorite snack was the chicken wraps, which Chef Jane Festa of Pelican Bend Restaurant showed them how to make.

“The chicken is really good for you because it gives you lot’s of protein, which is good for your muscles,” Festa said. “The cheese has calcium, and then the bread here gives you energy for the day.”

Before Bill Baumler — a chef at The Island Café — made the juice, he taught the students about the vitamins and minerals present in the ingredients, which were grapes, apples, oranges, carrots and celery.

“Oranges have Vitamin C in them,” Baumler said. “Vitamin C helps to heal your wounds.”

Nicolas Verne, 9, said the fruit and vegetable juice was his favorite.

“It just had the most flavor,” he said.

Rose Sullivan, 9, thought that the carrots overpowered the taste of the juice’s other ingredients.

“You can taste a lot of other things, but I think the carrot was more” strong, she said.

E-mail Sarah Donovan at

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