Project CHEF brings a cool factor to nutrition

It’s the season of Project CHEF! The program is currently in full swing, bringing its mobile nutrition classes to attentive young chefs at elementary schools across the Lower Mainland.  And what better way to profile this exciting program than a visit to one of these classrooms? We thought so, too. So, here we visit Project CHEF Founder, Barb Finley on-site at Graham Bruce Elementary, to investigate first-hand how this wonderful program is getting kids excited about cooking and nutrition.

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At 9:00am the day begins, with approximately 25 apron-clad young chefs eagerly marching into the classroom. They take post at one of several stations, equipped with everything they’ll need to make the recipe du jour: Veggie and Tofu Stir-fry.

Barb starts the day by asking the kids to share what they learned last class, explaining, “Your job is to teach your family about what good nutrition is and how to eat well at home.”

All the little hands in the room go up, exclaiming things like:

“Home made is better than store bought!”

“We had a healthy oatmeal for breakfast today!”

“Worries go down better with soup!”

So true!

There is a great energy in the room! The kids hang on Barb’s every word and are excited to learn to cook. The cool factor here is that they are bringing something important home to share with their own families.

Barb explains, “When you eat with your family, you take time to choose healthier food. Every family has special dishes. What are some of your favourite special meals?”

“Monday night, noodle night.”

“On weekends, we have sushi.”

“Once every three weeks we have wonton noodle soup.”

“Taco Tuesday!”

“Pizza Friday!”

“Stir-fry Sunday!”

Barb transitions into the cooking lesson with a quick demo, teaching essential skills as she goes, such as how to measure accurately, how to peel ginger, and where the ingredients come from.

She quizzes them about flavours: “What in here is sweet, what is salty, what is sour?”

The whole class replies, “Sugar!” “Soy!” “Lemon!”

She shows them how to cut the tofu into bite-sized pieces, saying, “Don’t cut it so puny that people wonder what’s that little white thing in there!” The kids love her. 

“When do you stop grating the garlic?”

“When you don’t feel safe!”


So much great advice, it’s no wonder so many parents show up, too.

“Indeed, there is no shortage of parent volunteers when Barb comes around,” Explains Principal Judy Ann Nishi, “In fact, I haven’t seen many of the parents who are here ever come into a classroom before.”

Between the chopping and frying, we catch up with one parent volunteer to ask what she thinks about the program. She jokingly tells us, “Barb caught my son’s attention right away when the kids were shown how to use melon ballers on day one!”

“Now, both of us look forward to making and enjoying the food and learning about new food like millet, quinoa, and tofu, which we’ve never before made at home. Most importantly, my son is proud to be cooking and to be learning to do it himself!”

It appears that Project CHEF’s goal- to teach kids to love to cook healthy food- is being fulfilled.

At their stations, the kids are ready to make their own stir-fry. Each is assigned a role: Taskmeister, Washermeister, Stationmeister and Driermeister. They proceed with gusto, as shown in the picture below.

Cooking a Tofu Veggie Stir Fry at Project Chef


The class ends with all the students, teachers and parents sitting down to enjoy the delicious dish they’ve made. On that note, we’ll leave you with this delicious Veggie and Tofu Stir-fry recipe to try at home. Enjoy!

Thanks Barb for inviting us into your program for a day. For more information about Project CHEF, visit We’d like to know how you teach your children about cooking, nutrition and health. Share your wisdom with us here! This week, we’re giving away an essential cooking tool that every meat-eating family should have over the holidays, a digital thermometer. If you upload a recipe to our site or comment on this blog, you'll automatically be entered to win. Enjoy! 

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