I’ve been teaching kids to cook for over 6 years now – in November 2009, I heard Jamie Oliver speak in Toronto about the Food Revolution (he had just finished up filming in Huntington for the Food Revolution show) and what he said that evening really resonated with me. Walking away from that, I told myself that I had a responsibility, as an educator, to take part in this grassroots Revolution and a couple of months later, Les Petits Chefs after school cooking club was born in the all-boys’ school where I teach French. A couple of years later, the programme was so popular, with too many boys wanting to sign up, that I started Cooking Basics for the youngest boys in the school (7-9 years old). Becoming a Food Revolution Ambassador in 2012, when the programme launched, was a natural progression for me. I’d successfully proven in my school community, that small changes, often, are a step in the right direction in terms of food education for kids, so getting that message out to the public seemed the natural next step.

At times, being a Food Revolution Ambassador can feel a little lonely (it’s that “drop in an ocean” feeling where the tasks ahead – food education  for all – sometimes feel insurmountable) but the Food Revolution Ambassador community is a great place to connect with people from all over the world who encourage and support each other’s efforts, keeping us all on track and providing some guidance for small ways we can help make a difference by sharing and showcasing our knowledge.

I’m fortunate that here in Toronto, our Ambassador group meets regularly to connect and discuss ideas, not just to plan activities for Food Revolution Day itself each year, but for how to keep momentum going in between Days.

I now have four Food Revolution Days under my belt to date. Each year, I have worked hard to spread the word around the community, encouraged people to host Food Revolution events and hosted events myself – both public and private cooking classes for kids and their parents. I have been fortunate enough to have the support of generous sponsors who have donated kitchen and event space, groceries, time and money to help make these events possible and either free or at very minimal cost for those who attend.

In between Food Revolution Days, I work to promote the value of food education, covering cooking with kids on my blog weekly during the school year and sharing information and articles through the Food Revolution Toronto Facebook and Twitter accounts.

It seems that cooking with kids and food education is something that everyone is interested in hearing about too – in May 2014, Breakfast Television Toronto spent five hours filming the boys from my cooking clubs as they worked their way through six different real food recipes. I’ve also been interviewed on numerous radio shows, including CBC’s “Here and Now” discussing Food Revolution Day and cooking with kids!

Food Revolution Day 2016

I have been working on a number of different activities leading up to Food Revolution Day.  My cooking club for 7-9 year olds will cook one of the Food Revolution dishes each week for the 10 weeks of this term (you can see what we’ve been up to on my school’s “Clubs” page here).  The older boys in Les Petits Chefs will work on variations on a classic French recipe – quiche (because everyone should know how to make pastry!) during their club the week leading up to Food Revolution Day.  In line with Jamie’s “Starter Pack” of must-know recipes, this term the boys have been working with chefs from around the city this term learning their “must know” recipes – so far, they’ve made soup, sandwiches, a meal from the pantry and my “go to” – fried rice!  Fellow Ambassador Mary Catherine Anderson and I will be hosting a public cooking class for kids and their parents on Food Revolution Day where we cook a meal and then sit down to eat it together. The kids will also make Jamie’s oaty fruity cereal to take home.  We’re hoping to inspire change by showing parents that “real food” can be quick and easy too!

Outside Food Revolution Day, I’ll continue to work to promote cooking at home, healthier choices and food education, both in my own school community and beyond. After all, it’s not just a day, it’s a Revolution!

About Mardi Michels

Mardi Michels is a full-time teacher of French at an independent boys’ school in Toronto. She writes about food and travel at eat. live. travel. write. and has been a Food Revolution Ambassador since 2012.