Michelle Bernstein, Jeff McInnis, and Kris Wessel to Cook for Common Threads Benefit
On November 1, they'll all be cooking for the first annual World Festival Miami. The event is sponsored by Common Threads, an organization that aims to teach low-income children how to cook healthy meals for themselves and their families. World Festival guests will bid on silent auction items (mostly culinary) and dine on the fine food.
Three or four of the children from the Common Threads program will serve as sous chefs at the event, which will be held Monday, November 1st at the Palms Hotel & Spa (3025 Collins Avenue, Miami Beach). Tickets are not cheap at $175 and can be purchased at the Common Threads website.
Michelle Bernstein worked with the Common Threads organization (based in Chicago) to bring the hands-on cooking program for kids to Miami. There are now four of them in town: at FIU Hospitality School, Miami-Dade College Wolfson Campus, Morningside Elementary, and WJ Bryan Elementary. Children participate as an after school activities, preparing menus from across the globe. Chef-instructors try to make sure there is at least one item prepared entirely from scratch in every class.
I was a volunteer for the Common Threads FIU program last year. It was fun to watch Bernstein, on the first day with the children, perform a skit with a volunteer about how to safely handle knives and call out "Hot!" or "Behind!" when carrying scorching or sharp items across a kitchen. She and the chef-instructors expected a lot from the kids, who rise to the occasion.
It was impressive to see third and fourth graders becoming deft with a sharp knife, mincing garlic with the "rock and chop." It was also cool to see them enjoy a new dish like pad thai or homemade pasta for the first time. Bernstein was pretty hands-on as the program manager, visiting the classes often. Now she focuses more on fundraising and generating support from local chefs (some of whom will be visiting the classes this semester). Mimi Chacin, Bernstein's former prep cook at Michy's, is now the Miami program manager.
Each class ends with a communal meal. "We're not only showing them how to cook and the importance of healthy food, but we're also showing the importance of sitting and eating as a family," says Chacin. "That sets it apart from other charities."