My Introduction to Brainfood

     Hi! My name is JaNeya Lee and I have recently joined Brainfood as an intern through DC Career Connect, a youth employment program through DC Department of Employment Services. When I first heard of Brainfood I thought that I was going to be learning how to cook, but Brainfood is so much more than that. When I was interviewed I was asked many questions that had me think about what I would do if I worked at Brainfood, as well as informed me of what the job was about and what I would be doing. When I went to orientation I did not know what to expect, but with the information I had, I understood that Brainfood was more than simply giving youth somewhere to go after school or giving them community service hours. In addition to Brainfood after school programs, there is also Brainfood Homegrown, a youth-led food venture that makes and sells their own products. Brainfood also has a youth garden, which is something that I have never had experience with. I'm excited that I get to learn how it works!

      My first day at Brainfood was great. I met other people that worked at Brainfood and they explained their jobs/roles. I also spent two hours with Homegrown. We made homemade nacho cheese seasoning to go on popcorn and I also tried some of their other products. Next I attended my first Kitchen All Stars class, and even though there were not many students, I got the sense of what I  was going to do in those classes. I learned the students’ names that were there and the Weekly Classroom Assistants (WCAs). 


                                                                                                                                               In class, we learned about mother sauces. We made a marinara sauce with toasted bread, a hollandaise sauce with roasted broccoli, and a béchamel sauce with potatoes. I actually got to help with one of the recipes! This was good because before this, I was not aware that there is sometimes a specific “Brainfood way” of doing things. In all, the recipes were very good and the students surprised me with what they knew about food and cooking. The next day, Kitchen All Stars team (myself, Julie, Nina, and Amanda) talked about how my first class went.
       The next week at Kitchen All Stars was Herbs and Spices. We made a lemon thyme chicken, herbed potato salad, and lavender shortbread cookies using a variety of herbs. I was excited but worried because I hadn’t ever tried potato salad without mayo. I was open to the cookies because I love cookies and the chicken I thought might have the overpowering taste of lemon.  The sauce that went with the chicken was a little bit lemony, but overall everything tasted good. The potato salad was a new experience but I can say that I had never tried anything like it before! The cookies were a class favorite because students got to make lavender butter and make them into different shapes. This day, I learned more students’ names and met the other WCA’s. I still felt a little overwhelmed, but I felt more like I was getting the hang of things. The more time went on in class the more comfortable I felt. When talking about spices later in the week, we made spice rubbed chicken drumsticks, spice toasted yams, and soft whole wheat ginger spice cookies. I was excited and thought that these recipes were interesting. The chicken was great because it had the students making their own spice seasoning for their chicken. The yams were fun because the students had to toast some spices on the stovetop. The yams were an acquired taste; I think that it was about letting the natural sweetness of the yams come through while having spices to add flavor. The ginger cookies were a favorite because they were not at all like ginger snaps they were soft and spicy.
       My experience with Brainfood so far has been exciting, fun, and educational. There are many things that Brainfood offers to youth that I wish I had been a part of when I was in high school. As time goes on, I will be doing more tasks and activities at Brainfood and I can’t wait!


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