Whole, fresh, and sometimes locally-grown ingredients make for inspired home cooking. The culinary program at Ironwood Maine is designed to be nutritious, engaging, and educational. A professional culinary team member helps plan daily recipes and manages 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. 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. Residents plant, cultivate and harvest a bountiful variety of vegetables and herbs from our 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, teens demonstrate independence, initiative, and creativity in the culinary arts. Residents are known to master certain recipes or routines—such as ethnic food night, outdoor grilling, baking, or Sunday pancakes. Residents take great pride in finessing and sharing their skills with the group.
At the Farmhouse, a visiting chef leads the residents 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 residents research and plan a full-course meal from that region. 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 teens alike then evaluate the whole presentation: the quality and taste of food, set-up, and often music and costumes. This experience empowers the teens, who come to realize that cooking can be fun, challenging, and rewarding.