Building Community Through Food

May 25, 2016 11:45 AM ET
Summary: 

Chef Trevor Randle and his culinary arts students at Maple Ridge Secondary School have found a way to unite their community through food. For the past five years, they have hosted weekly dinners almost every Thursday evening throughout the school year for over 150 guests – attracting British Columbia residents from Maple Ridge, Mission, Pitt Meadows and Coquitlam.

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What started as an effort to bridge the gap between seniors and high school students has now become a popular weekly community event for Maple Ridge Secondary School.

For the past five years, Chef Trevor Randle and his culinary arts students have hosted weekly dinners almost every Thursday evening throughout the school year – attracting British Columbia residents from Maple Ridge, Mission, Pitt Meadows and Coquitlam.

“Members of the community get to come in and see what today’s teenagers are doing and what goes on in the building,” said Chef Randle. “On the flip side, students get to interact and have fun with the seniors and their community. It’s a real win-win.”

Due to the overwhelming interest, Chef Randle posts a new menu online each week and takes reservations for over 150 guests, often selling out. In addition, they also offer a “to-go” service to accommodate the busy schedules of single moms and young families that don’t have time to cook.

Under Chef Randle’s guidance students prepare, cook and serve a buffet-style dinner. Working in a commercial grade kitchen, the culinary arts students are able to prepare a variety of meat, fish and vegetarian entrees, fresh vegetables, salads and desserts for their guests to enjoy.

“Our goal is not only to teach kids how to cook properly, but also how to present food in the right way,” said Chef Randle. “Students are learning life skills – how to cook the right way and purchase responsibly. At the end of the day they can apply what they learn to make tasty food for themselves and for others.”

For their final dinner of the year – held on May 19 – they had an astounding 180 people attend. As a special treat, and for the first time ever, students prepared cedar plank salmon with a fresh mango salsa and served it straight to the tables.

“The food is excellent and you can’t beat it,” said regular guest Sylvia Cobb. “You can go to the most expensive restaurant in this town and you won’t get a meal like you get here. Chef is an excellent teacher.”

Not only has the food made an impression on regular guests, but it is evident that Chef Randle has as well. His infectious personality has stolen the heart of many, young and old. In expressing his passion, he empowers his students with skills that give them confidence in the kitchen, and instills in them the knowledge that their decisions and actions have an impact on their community.