Chef Ron’s impact on local schools and Community, thanks to Alice Waters and The Edible School Yard Academy
In the Spring of 2008 it was a parent who delivered the “Edible Schoolyard” book to Forest Ridge School of the Sacred Heart in hopes that it would find its way to the Schools Executive Chef. Chef Ron Askew was hired in 2004 to introduce whole food and wellness through food to this historic all girls school grades 5-12 located in Bellevue WA.
The dream by this parent that soon became Chef Ron and his staffs mission was to introduce school gardens and edible landscapes to the schools campus with student involvement through all phases of planning, planting, growing, harvesting and serving at the schools cafeteria, “The FRidge”. Alice Waters, “Edible Schoolyard”, was just the inspiration needed and in less than 2 years blackberries were harvested and served in the cafeteria and the first school garden shovel was placed in the ground on Earth Day by the head of school Mark Pierotti.
In October of 2014 Chef Ron represented Slow Food USA as a Delegate of School Gardens, Chef Ron spent a life altering week in Turin Italy attending Terra Madre. While attending the event, Chef was again inspired by Alice Waters in joining her speaking engagements. Chef Ron states, “at every instance and through the many networking opportunities with delegates and attendees the conversations always came full circle back to school gardens and food literacy of children”.
In the Spring of 2015 Chef Ron was selected along with several other members of Slow Food USA to attend, Alice Waters, “Edible Schoolyard Academy”. “Inspiring, fulfilling, life changing and validating”, were just some of the words spoken by Chef Ron after this week long event. “I feel as though the lessons learned and passionate staff and attendees have greatly fueled my fire in making change and impacting our youth with gardening, cooking and educating all together as nature and Alice had intended”.
Already chef Ron has taken the many tools and skills learned and applied them to outdoor gardening, cooking and educating experiences for International residence students during 4 week summer English immersion program at Forest Ridge School. Chef Ron describes, “the looks on their faces was of pure joy when students were able to pull up potatoes, crack off corn on the cob from the stalk, twist beans from the vine and snip kale from the stem”. After the harvest experience Chef Ron climbed into the bus as the driver and transported the students, teachers and assistants to a local urban [Bellevue Lake Hills Farm] where they assisted Urban Farmer Educator Maybin, of Farmer Frog. (Local nonprofit organization building and maintaining school gardens and urban gardens to low income communities). At the farm students helped with maintenance and discussed hunger issues across the world. Back to the school they went where Chef Ron, and his Chefs cooked up all the many bounties of the harvest in the schools kitchen. At dinner, joined by guest Farmer Maybin, unique styles of cultural gardening were discussed including, Native American Indian, “Three Sisters Gardening”, the Inca’s system of crop rotation and Africa’s influence on Farmer Maybin’s round garden beds. The Edible Schoolyard book and the Academy were discussed and shared, Slow Food USA and Terra Madre was described. Ron described, “at the end of this beautiful, bountiful harvest and educational day I felt so satisfied and inspired to have had a chance to connect the dots through food to young students from Japan, Korea, Mexico and the USA with our schools garden, a local urban farm, a farmer from Africa, Slow Food USA, ESYA, Alice Waters and Farmer Frog.
The 2015-16 school year has now begun at Forest Ridge and across the nation students are busily learning new subjects, meeting new friends and at many schools, now more than ever, students are also learning hands-on, experiential learning techniques for where food comes from, how to prepare it and how education can be fun with food. This is what Chef Ron believes the education and mission of the ESYA and Alice Waters has reinforced for him at his school, which in turn is also influencing many other private and public schools across the nation and world. Chef Ron states in conclusion, “We live at a momentous time of rediscovery in regard to food, culture, education and wellness!” “I feel so blessed to have the ability to support our future generations expanded view of food literacy through my energy in the kitchens and around the gardens”.
Ron Askew is the Executive Chef at Forest Ridge School and is also a current Farmer Frog Board Member.