Students at Westminster Avenue Elementary School in Venice got a lesson in sustainable cooking from a local chef at the school’s garden Oct. 7.
Chef Joe Miller of nearby Joe’s Restaurant on Abbot Kinney Boulevard, which has been dedicated to creating market-fresh meals using locally sourced ingredients, paid another visit to the Westminster Elementary (We) Garden to give tips to students taking classes on sustainable cooking.
The We Garden was established after Venice denizen Nora Dvosin, who was finishing her master gardener course with the Common Ground Garden Program, spotted a plot of land at the school and devised a plan to create a co-gardening project with the students who took classes there. Along with landscape architect and master gardener Nancy Griffin, Dvosin connected with then Principal Betty Coleman and launched an in-schools program that allowed them to work with students on a weekly basis to plant, tend, harvest and eat everything they grew.
Since then, the garden project has expanded to over a quarter acre with over 50 trees, a woodland area and a kindergarten garden.
The gardeners wanted to expand their lesson base as well and proposed working with a professional chef who could show the students how to do more complicated forms of cooking. Dvosin said she met Miller through a friend and approached him with the idea.
“He’s an amazing personality,” said Dvosin. “He comes into the garden once a month and works with the fifth graders, and he never cooks ‘down’ to the kids. Instead, he introduces them to all kinds of sophisticated ingredients, cooking techniques and tastes.”
Miller said he enjoys the experience, not just because it follows the mission of Joe’s Restaurant, but also because it gives him the opportunity to connect with and encourage a whole new generation of fresh food fanatics.
“The We Garden keeps us sustainable and it allows us to grow the things we use consistently in the restaurant and helps us participate in the community by working with the fifth graders and teaching them the farm-to-table philosophy,” Miller said. “By working with Nora and the kids it reminds me where everything really comes from and how we can grow things biodynamic in polycultural environments.”
Dvosin added, “The kids love using the tools, creating the meal, asking Joe questions about his restaurant and how he runs it, and looking at his chef kit, which he often brings into the garden and explains tool by tool.”