February 25, 2016
Diana Stavaridis, Head Chef at Manhattan House, works with GrowingGreat, a community garden program, to educate elementary school students, allowing their roles to evolve as they grow older.
Kindergarten-aged students plant and maintain produce at a garden nearby. Upon reaching fourth and fifth grade, they see their hard work truly pay off. “Focus groups” comprised of 12-18 fourth and fifth grade students are then invited to the gastropub’s kitchen with the assistance of Stavaridis, to conceptualize and produce a savory dish utilizing fruits and vegetables grown from their own garden.
“I’ve never heard of any other restaurants that have done anything like this. We’re mitigating the effects of the childhood obesity epidemic on a local level, while inspiring children regarding the artful possibilities that cooking yields,” states Stavaridis.
GrowingGreat is a community garden program aimed towards youth in local public schools where they learn more about culinary arts, are educated in healthier eating habits and a “farm-to-table” mentality that’s in the fabric of Manhattan Houses’ culture.
“The program has inspired many young students to become chefs when they grow up, incorporate nutritional eating habits and develop an appreciation for ‘seed-to-table’ food preparation,” states Jill Koons, GrowingGreat Director of Education. She adds, “Our mission at GrowingGreat is to inspire all young people to grow up healthy through science-based garden and nutrition education.”
The entrée produced by the students is available on the restaurant’s menu as a limited time month-long offering. Various local elementary schools get a turn to feature a new dish every month. Students are then encouraged to dine with their families in the restaurant during the time period that their meal is featured. Upon these visits, the children are invited into the kitchen with Stavaridis and the rest of the kitchen staff to assist in making the dish that their family will later enjoy.
Manhattan House prides itself on its procurement of locally-sourced and seasonal fare. Stavaridis maintains local gardens where much of their kitchen’s produce is grown. This hyper-local produce is then utilized in dishes that rotate seasonally.
“Our community garden is what makes our restaurant stand alone amongst many other gastropubs in the area,” says Stavaridis. She adds, “We’ve seen parents come to dine at Manhattan House and tell us how this program has positively influenced their child’s attitude towards healthy food. I’m very passionate about showing the power of fresh, local food to others. As a chef nowadays, we all have a duty and obligation to be environmentally and socially aware to others, especially kids.”
Previous “student-inspired” menu dishes have included: gnocchi with broccoli pesto and bow-tie pasta with smoked bacon, roasted cauliflower and ricotta cheese.
ABOUT GROWING GREAT
GrowingGreat is a 501(c)3 non-profit school garden and nutrition education organization dedicated to inspiring children and adults to adopt healthy eating habits. Their mission is to empower every child to grow up healthy through science-based garden and nutrition education. GrowingGreat’s goal is to help children and families understand where their food comes from, appreciate that food serves a purpose in one’s overall health and has an impact on one’s longevity and well-being. For more information on the GrowingGreat program, please visit http://growinggreat.org.
ABOUT MANHATTAN HOUSE
Established in 2015, Manhattan House is a community-focused, American-style gastropub with a heavy emphasis on locally-sourced and seasonal fare. Head Chef, Diana Stavaridis maintains local gardens where much of their kitchen’s produce is grown. The gastropub’s culinary mentality is maintaining food sustainability and incorporating only the freshest, homegrown, ingredients. They procure seasonal, local produce, meats and seafood whenever possible from area farms and purveyors. All dishes are then made from scratch, yielding unique homemade flavors. Aged cedar wood panels – reclaimed from old Hollywood Bowl seats, plush leather seating and chalk art reflect a rustic take on contemporary interior design. Manhattan House offers private dining options for receptions, cocktail-style events and intimate dinner parties. Doors are open Tuesday through Sunday beginning at 5pm, and closed on Monday.
Source: Press Release