Despite Miami's vibrant and growing culinary scene, you may be surprised to learn that the Magic City is surrounded by several "food deserts." "Food deserts" are areas that lack readily available healthy and affordable food resources. The good news? There's a way to turn these deserts into "food forests," by growing gardens that increase access to fresh, affordable, food and provide nutrition education to these communities through our local public schools.
Not only did the students supply the night's produce, they even assisted Chef Timon with the preparation of the first course.
This is where the Citi Gardens® initiative comes in. Since its inception in Miami, the project—in partnership with The Education Fund—has brought gardens to 51 public schools, educating children on the science and history of farming and expanding their appreciation of greens and veggies. Not only do the gardens act as "living" classrooms, but the crops are used "farm-to-table" style in school cafeterias—and students are even sent home with bags of produce to share with their families.
Chef Timon Balloo has partnered with this initiative and, as he mentioned in his previous interview with me, he hosted a series of themed dinners at his restaurant, SUGARCANE raw bar grill, utilizing the gardens' ingredients grown and harvested by the kids themselves. One of these themed dinners took place on December 15, 2015, and was offered exclusively to Citi cardholders through Citi® Private Pass® and Citi® Private Pass Beyond®.
A handful of children that participate in the Citi Gardens® Food Forest Grown with the Education Fund initiative at Twin Lakes Elementary School were in attendance during this special evening and shared first-hand stories of the program, including how they learned to love their vegetables by working in their school food forest. The students had the chance to serve as mini sous-chefs to Chef Timon and even assisted him with the preparation of the first course!
The first course was prepared tableside—a big eye Tuna Crudo with fennel and grapefruit. Once the children finished the plating for this course, and after their gracious work, they were excused from the dinner as it was starting to get late and this was, after all, a school night.
The dishes that followed were delectable: a pumpkin chowder with black truffle and potatoes; robata grilled prawns served over a green papaya slaw with lemongrass and kaffir lime vinaigrette; and a delicious lamb chop served with za'atar, chickpeas, katuk, and peanut flower—the latter half of which was grown in the garden.
Last but definitely not least, was dessert, which is—in my opinion—where SUGARCANE never disappoints. The meal ended with a lychee & lemongrass semifreddo served over a tropical fruit salsa and a scrumptious sesame coconut crisp.
If you're interested in learning more about how Citi is tackling the issue of food access from the ground up in schools across the country, visit Citi Gardens® for more information.