Red Rooster may have hosted the Clintons, Obamas, U2, and the Swedish Royal family in the past, but none compared to the nervousness of entertaining this tough crowd: 8 preschoolers from Peartree, a progressive preschool that opened on West 112th Street in May. The eager bunch arrived early in their day to get a tour by Chef Joel Harrington before snacking on warm cornbread at one of Rooster’s large banquettes.
The kids came daunting their colorful chef hats and yellow aprons ready to see the kitchen. It was a pleasure to see this excited group of 3 and 4 year olds respond to the hot kitchen and the cold storage rooms, ooh’ing and aah’ing as they spiraled their way to the back rooms, down the stairs and to a side only our staff get access to. And these kids know their food. From identifying lettuce and tomatoes to learning about avocados and asparagus, these youngsters had an eye for their fruits and veggies. Many of them said they enjoyed fresh salads, sandwiches, and other healthy snacks (along with pizza and cupcakes, of course).
Much of the students’ affinity for fresh foods is thanks to the healthy environment founder Denise Adusei creates at Peartree. A 34-year-old mother of 2, Denise beat out 500 applicants to win the $15,000 second annual New York StartUP! Business Plan Competition in 2011 to open the progressive school after she realized her daughter was one of 25,000 children in Harlem wait listed for only 5,000 seats in the area’s pre-K schools. With additional loans from Columbia Business School and the Upper Manhattan Power Zone, Denise was able to build the 6,000-square-foot, five classroom school.
Peartree’s mission is to provide a warm and encouraging atmosphere that enhances self-concept, instills basic moral values, encourages social interaction, and enriches awareness of the natural and cultural world. The preschool encourages the students to learn through community involvement and engaging in unique activities that deal with nature and team building. The collaborative environment is one that the preschool prides itself on and Red Rooster was thrilled to be a part of that education.
The kids were also joined by members from Red Rabbit, the NYC-based healthy school meal provider to the metro area. Red Rabbit works with local farmers, suppliers, and artisans to create healthy meals for school children while promoting sustainability and growing the local economy, and a partnership with Peartree Preschool is in the works.
During the visit, Chef Joel encouraged the children to try new vegetables and continue on their nutritional journey through education and experiences. The idea is to teach them at a young age so that these great habits continue on into adolescence and adulthood, an idea that we know is important for personal health and the potential they have to impact other kids in their age group. Healthy is the new trend and we saw that with this bright and eager group of preschoolers.
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