The Kids Kitchen Initiative (KKI), a brain-child of NESFAS, started in the year 2014 with the aim to teach children how to cook based on the concept of Good Clean and Fair. A visit to the William Lewis Boys Home Orphanage, Mawphlang, on 26th July 2014, by the NESFAS team gave birth to the concept and led to its prompt initiation. The boy’s home care taker, Mr Samuel Jyrwa recounts how thrilled and excited the boys were, and still are, to be a part of the Kids Kitchen team — a small step for most of them towards the realisation of the dream of someday becoming a professional. 12 boys out of the resident 50 odd boys signed up for the cooking class which was to be facilitated by the NESFAS Flavours Development (FD)team. Today, with some of the boys leaving the home and new members joining in the cooking class, 13 boys carry on with making their nascent culinary dreams come true.
NESFAS has been conducting cooking classes with the boys twice a month on Saturdays and there have been 20 classes conducted so far. The boys were guided not only on culinary skills but were also taught about the basic principles of cleanliness, proper washing of vegetables, disposal of waste, importance of local ingredients among other important lessons. From making simple dishes like salads, they graduated to learning different methods of cooking such as blanching, boiling, pan frying, deep frying, simmering, stewing, searing, marination , etc.
We could say that the lessons have paid off for most who are now confident enough to host a lunch for the fellow residents of the home and the NESFAS team for Terra Madre Day, known locally as Mei-Ramew Day.
The lunch was held in the premises of the William Lewis Home for boys, Mawphlang. Along with the lunch, under the Umbrella of the Kids Kitchen Initiative, a drawing session around the theme of “Mother Earth” for the children of the home was also held. The Kids Kitchen boys were also given a choice participate in the cooking of the food or paint along with the other boys. Their choice was unanimous and they excitedly rushed to the kitchen to start the preparation for the lunch. Under the guidance of Esther Sawian, FD, NESFAS, and staffs of NESFAS, the boys worked diligently to prepare a grand meal for all.
The food was simple and delicious. On the menu was local rice served with smoked pork cooked with potato and pumpkin, beet root and pea salad, and local fermented soybean dish — tungrymbai. The meal was followed a musical session where the boys sang songs for their friends from NESFAS.
“I thank NESFAS for giving me the skills and opportunity to cook. I began as a resident of the home and have now become the cook here. Learning these skills have helped me improve massively. My dream is to become a professional chef and I will work hard for it,” says Debones Nongsiej, in smiles.
Each of the 14 boys prepped and cooked with a smile, their determination showing through, in the knowledge that they were growing in confidence and skills that would bring them closer to their dreams of becoming chefs.
From the very beginning, the children of the boys home displayed immense pleasure in the initiative and their love for cooking was evident through their active participation in the International Mei-Ramew 2015 that took place last November and various other programs held by NESFAS and the orphanage. Not only that the initiative developed further the love of the children for good food. “I never liked eating beetroot but after making a beetroot salad in the class I love to eat beetroot,” says Kularskhem Nongspung, a former member of the Kids Kitchen who now works a cook in Robert Hospital canteen in Shillong. Through the Kids Kitchen Initiative, NESFAS has tried to give the children a platform to showcase their creativity and to actually transform their love for food into a form that embraces each element of happiness, love and respect. Something we all saw this Terra Madre Day.