UF/IFAS Chef David Bearl teams up with Bok Tower Gardens

Forty Florida middle school students will learn to cook fresh, healthy meals with a professional chef, thanks to the partnership between University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension and Bok Tower Gardens.

The cooking demonstration is set for May 20 and will celebrate the recent opening of the new Outdoor Kitchen and Edible Garden at Bok Tower Gardens, said Chef David Bearl.

The Outdoor Kitchen and Edible Garden will inspire meals prepared with the seasonal fruits and vegetables grown onsite, said Tricia Martin, director of education at Bok Tower Gardens.

Martin worked with Bearl to design the kitchen with a chef’s needs in mind. The kitchen features state-of-the-art appliances, a wood-fired brick oven, granite countertops and seating for 40 people.

Before the cooking begins, students will pick fresh fruits and vegetables from a garden located next to the kitchen, said Martin. Back in the kitchen, Bearl will coach groups of students as they add these ingredients to their pizzas. Bearl also plans to emphasize food and kitchen safety, including how to use a cutting board and proper hand washing.

Local high school students who are part of their school’s culinary program will work as Bearl’s sous chefs and act as mentors for the middle schoolers.

When all the healthy toppings have been added, participants will watch their pizzas cook in the wood-fired oven and enjoy the tasty results.

Bearl hopes the students will be so excited about making their own food they won’t care that the pizza crust is whole-wheat or that they are eating vegetables. “I want them to like fresh, minimally processed food, and to go home and have their parents make it,” he said.

And if those parents take their children grocery shopping, they might start to hear, “Hey Mom, I want some kohlrabi!”’ Bearl said.

In addition to teaching kids about nutrition and where their food comes from, Martin sees the cooking demonstration as chance to show youth career opportunities in the culinary arts.

This event will further strengthen the partnership between UF/IFAS and Bok Tower Gardens, and help serve the mission of both institutions to encourage healthy living and appreciation of natural resources, Martin said.

The Outdoor Kitchen and Edible Garden “represents the goals of the partnership to provide experiential education that’s going to enrich people’s lives,” Martin said.

“Bok Tower is a teaching institution,” said Bearl, “and these kinds of partnerships only help spread the word about UF/IFAS.”

Bearl trains program assistants in the UF/IFAS Family Nutrition Program and is the UF/IFAS Farm to School chef. He is certified by the American Culinary Federation.

UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones

Sources: David Bearl, 904-669-1340, david.bearl@ufl.edu

Tricia Martin, 863-332-0742, tmartin@boktower.org