Makar Farms hosted the Egyptian Chef’s Association’s newest initiative “Chef and Child” in October. The initiative is part of the World- Chefs global program “Healthy Children — Healthy Future” that aims to encourage children to eat healthy food and keep up healthy eating habits. By Farah El-Akkad Photography by Hayssam Samir
Chef and Child and Makar Farms invited a group of children from Manaret El Maadi School along with Chefs from the ECA. The day started with a tour around the farm conducted by owner Monir Makar, who showed the children the process of growing different kinds of vegetables such as cucumbers, chives, parsley and zucchini. The children picked their own fruit and vegetables, then made salads and grilled bananas and vegetables. “From time to time, some schools are extremely interested to show the children what is nature and how food grows. The children are really impressed, they have the curiosity and there is also the aspect of appearance. The food coming out of the plant looks nice and new to them, particularly to those who live in the city and know nothing at all about agriculture.”[caption id="attachment_385848" align="alignnone" width="992"] Monir Makar, the owner of Makar Farms, talks to children during the launch of the "Chef and Child" initiative, which seeks to promote healthy eating.[/caption]
Makar Farms was founded in 1880 and is owned by Makar’s great-grandfather. Twenty years ago, Makar introduced hydroponic technology into his planting system. “We pump water 42 meters deep and then we put it in a closed circuit in pipes and we add the nutrients needed for the growth of the plant. The consequences are great because the water is cooler than the soil in the sun. Secondly, the perfect equation of the nutrients gives you a very quick growth level which is faster than the soil and takes less effort,” Makar explains, adding that he needed to find new techniques to protect the farm from the environment as far as temperature is concerned because the main problem Egypt faces in growing vegetables is the heat. Today, the hydroponic farm grows a wide variety of organic crops.
The ECA typically advises families who want their kids to eat healthier items to make time for children to help in the kitchen. Zuhaira Shaweesh, a certified chef volunteering at the event, says, “It is very interesting to see the curiosity of the children when they get involved in the cooking process and make stuff with their own hands. All over the world people are launching awareness campaigns about healthy eating habits. It should be an alert for us to become more engaged in an initiative like this one.”
The ECA was established in 1997 with the goal of improving culinary standards in Egypt and supporting Egyptian chefs in their development. It is also connected to the World Association of Chefs Societies. “On October 20 each year, chefs from all over the world gather and this year’s theme is Healthy Children, Healthy Future. In Egypt we thought it would be nice to take the children from school to a farm, show them how plants actually grow and how much care goes into the process so they pay more attention to the food when they handle it,” says Mirjam Ijessel, executive director of the ECA, stressing that the Chef and Child initiative is not just a one-day event. “I hope we inspire other schools to call us and invite chefs to their schools to get more children involved in the process of cooking and eating healthier food. If a chef goes into a classroom, the children are already excited because he is not like a teacher. We would like to promote the Chef and Child initiative by participating in different activities in schools, be it cooking competitions, cooking demonstrations, cooking classes or food coloring games.”[caption id="attachment_385850" align="alignnone" width="992"] The Egyptian Chef's Association advises families who want their kids to eat healthier to make time for children to help in the kitchen.[/caption]
Manaret El Maadi’s supervisor agrees with IJessel, adding, “We are introducing the children to a different lifestyle, a new learning experience that will enhance their understanding of the world around them, to make them do things in a different way. We’re showing them the process of growing plants through new technologies and how healthy food is not as dull as some children see it. At the end of the day children also took home some vegetables to cook and share recipes with their parents.
Today one of the children said it out loud - “I used to hate zucchini, but now I love it.”