Fruit Leather Jacket - Kids Cook with Chef Ryan Pera
Visions of kids in the kitchen bedecked in chef’s hats and aprons are a common theme on television shows and print media, but the relationship for many of these children often ends on the plate. What about budding cooks who want to take their passions one step further into the world of retail – or the curious kid hoping for a creative outlet beyond the usual art class? Enter the brilliant and thoughtful partnership between the participants of Recipe for Success’s Eat This! summer camp and local specialty butcher shop & café Revival Market that provides all this and more for lucky chefs-in-the-making. The collaboration, which started three years ago, is a unique hands-on experience that immerses kids 8-11 years old in the full cycle of producing a seasonal and shelf-stable product from concept initiation to recipes and subsequent packing and promoting. “Food education goes hand-in-hand with health education,” said Revival Market chef Ryan Pera. “It’s important that kids learn early where their food comes from and better, tasty, healthy ways to eat.”
Over the course of one week, the campers are challenged with the task of creating a shelf-stable product and marketing it to assistant general manager Joey Luna and Pera, who then choose a winning item to sell at Revival Market. Luna meets with the kids at the beginning of the week to offer initial guidance in terms of how to approach their recipes considering seasonal ingredients, but after that it’s all up to them to develop something customers would want to purchase. With that in mind, said Pera, “We definitely take the product and make it work for us. We’ll tweak production styles to fit our kitchen.” The winning invention this year was a “Fruit Leather Jacket” or fruit leather and is on sale through Labor Day. Members of the team River Price and Mansi Patel were able to feel the struggle of trial and error while ultimately finding the fulfillment of persistence despite the very limited week timeframe. For example, Patel said her first idea of using orange juice in the recipe resulted in a product that was too liquid but found the replacement of zest allowed the product’s texture to solidify properly. Price added, “It was still a fun experience when we messed up because we got better at what we were trying to do.” This hands-off approach from camp leaders and the Revival folks further allowed the kids’ team-building skills to flourish, something they will take with them long past the last bite of fruit leather. Other benefits, said Pera are “Creativity and follow through. If they have an idea they have to complete it and determine the means to make it happen.” Patel explained that the many steps were fun but stressful because “we had a draw the mascot, draw the ingredients, draw the logo, come up with the slogan and then have it all printed!” This understanding is a large part of the program since food production is one part business, after all, and that’s an important element for future professional cooks to grasp from the get-go.
When came time to determine the winning product Luna said of their decision to sell the Fruit Leather Jacket, “It’s a delicious product, and it was more marketable for us since it’s a grab-and-go item.” Both campers were thrilled with the announcement of their win and plan to make the leather at home. Asked how they felt about seeing their product in a store? “Pretty cool!” said Price with Patel adding a resounding “AMAAAZING!!” It just goes to show the incredible impact possible when local business puts forth the effort of supporting young minds.
All sales of the product are donated directly back to Recipe for Success. Last year’s winning item was a “Figgie Piggy” fig-filled cookie that raised about $2,000 for the organization.