Whole, fresh, and sometimes locally-grown ingredients make for inspired home cooking. The culinary program at Ironwood is designed to be nutritious, engaging, and educational. A professional culinary site helps plan the daily recipes and food orders. However, teens are involved in preparing and serving every meal. Here residents learn and refine the skills necessary for healthy eating habits from planning and buying ingredients to eating and serving the dish itself. Staff and resident teens cook and eat together, honoring the tradition of family-style meals. During the growing season, the culinary program is beautifully complemented by the Horticulture Program. Students plant, cultivate and harvest a bountiful variety of vegetables and herbs in the garden.
When the weekly food order arrives, teens unpack the delivery, organizing the ingredients for efficient meal preparation. Resident teens are assigned the tasks of cooking and cleaning for meals on a rotational basis. Guided by staff when they first arrive, towards the end of their stay at Frye and the Farm House, teens demonstrate independence, initiative and creativity in the culinary arts. Students are known to master certain recipes or routines—such as Ethnic night, outdoor grilling, baking, or Sunday pancakes. They take great pride in finessing and sharing their skills with the group.
At the Farm House, a visiting chef leads the students through the preparation of an elaborate gourmet meal every week. Every other week, the group explores a different cultural heritage. Everyone chooses a region and studies its culture and geography. Two students research and plan a full-course meal from that culture. Working on a budget, they purchase and prepare all the ingredients for that meal. They also decorate the dining room and serve the entire group. Staff and students then evaluate the whole presentation: the quality and taste of food, set-up and often music and costumes. This experience empowers the teens, who realize that cooking can be fun as well as challenging.