I’m sorry, Decked Out Show House, but you didn’t stand a chance. Not against my kids. Yeah, that Christopher Peacock kitchen was hot stuff, and those KitchenAid appliances made me drool, but mostly I liked the little desk in the front room where people paid their admission fee. Everyone in the design field (and many a design enthusiast) knows about the Kips Bay Boys and Girls Club Decorator Show House: they flock to see the upper East side townhouse transformed by top designers whose work sets trends that get picked up all over the world. (Well, not all over. I’m pretty sure in the Bronx, where my kids come from, these designs are not commonly found in homes.) Back to the desk in front. The money collected there is a major part of the funding for the Kips Bay Boys and Girls Club (and has been since 1973). The Club House keeps my kids away from really bad influences on the street after school. The money helps buy supplies like folding tables and dish soap for the Club House so we can have a cooking class. (I have to add, also, that many of the supplies for our cooking class were donated with no strings attached by my big-hearted friends at Anolon and Oxo. And the Copper River salmon fishermen in Alaska generously donated fresh and canned salmon several times, too.) And this year, there was something extra special for these incredible kids: we held our graduation class in the Show House and, in recognition of their hard work and dedication, each student got his or her chef coat.
The kids look sharp! Just behind me is Amber, and next to her is Eddy. They both grew up going to Kips Bay Boys and Girls Club and both now work there. They have been my assistants since Day 1, and both have learned to cook along side the kids — while simultaneously functioning as my additional eyeballs and arms (and master first-aide kit fetchers).
We’ve been holding class on folding tables, so it was pretty cool to actually work on stable, comfortable-height counter tops. Before this last class, we worked in a room by ourselves, appreciating the fruits of our labor after the last dish is washed—so it was very cool to actually prepare hors d’oeuvres to serve to guests.
Check out all the photos at the end of this post. We were fortunate enough to have a photographer and videographers there, thanks to House Beautiful, another sponsor of the Show House. I loved all the photos so much, I wasn’t a very good editor. So there are lots of them: photos that show off the kids’ great techniques, their attention to detail, their incredible smiles…
What really made me bust with pride—bust so hard I wore a stupid grin on my face for most of the three hours we were there—was that these kids stayed focused and composed: they are chef rock stars in the making. Look at them! This was our last class. No, this was supposed to be our last class. We said goodbye and some of them asked me, “Does this mean you won’t be teaching us anymore?” And I said yes, but I am fairly certain they heard the “No!” I meant to say.
Help me out here, if you don’t mind. Should I start next school year with new kids, so that more kids can learn a little bit about healthful eating, cooking, manners (yes, we cover those, too) and how to take care of themselves? I really don’t want to give these kids—my kids– up. I want to teach them as much as they want to learn…To feed them knowledge until they are all full up.
Maybe schoolteachers feel this way– but then how do they say goodbye, year after year, and move on to a whole new set of kids? So should I do that—start all over teaching the basics to a new set of kids? Or should I keep going with these kids—my kids—who I can hardly even write about without my chest swelling and my eyes welling? I mean, just look at them:
I am really looking forward to hearing what everyone thinks (and why): should I continue with these same kids, who want to learn more, or give new kids a chance to learn the basics?