GOSHEN — Gabriella Schlabach didn't know what an eggplant looked like until she was chopping one into chunks on Tuesday at the Elkhart County 4-H Fair.
She was one of several kids who learned how to make a healthy meal through the Cooking with Kids chef demonstrations at the fair.
This is the second year for the local chef-led demonstrations. This year, the demonstrations are scheduled with the Growums Gardens cooking demonstration, during which kids can prepare vegetables for the dish the chef will prepare: either ratatouille or pizza.
Kids were able to pick up Growums garden kits earlier this year, which provided the basics for kids to grow the ingredients for a particular dish. Kids can bring those homegrown veggies and herbs with them to the fair to prepare with a chef, though some vegetables from a local farm are also available for kids to use.
Gabriella watched Tuesday as Zach Lucchese of Lucchese's Italian Restaurant in Elkhart stir-fried onion, eggplant, peppers, summer squash, tomatoes and some herbs into ratatouille on a portable stove top. Lucchese explained each step as he made the dish, then offered samples to those in the audience.
“It was really good,” Schlabach said, noting later that she thinks this was also the first time she had tasted eggplant.
Sara Granberg, a veterinarian who oversees the Youth Ag area at the fair, said that the purpose of the cooking demonstrations is to show “how simple it is to eat healthy and to grow your own food.”
Lucchese added, “Quite a few kids have come through that have said they don't like vegetables.” Then they try the ratatouille, he said, and they do like it.
Gabriella, 10, of Middlebury said she was excited to use the veggies she had cut there to make the recipe at home.
Today, July 25, Paul Cataldo of Antonio's Italian Ristorante will be working with the kids to prepare vegetables and then make grilled pizzas. Today is the last day for these cooking demonstrations at the fair.
The demonstrations take place at the Youth Ag Tent, very near Heritage Park, where many of Wednesday's Kids Day activities will happen. Chef demos are at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. today, with Growums Gardens cooking demos from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and 2:30 to 4 p.m. See the day's schedule for a complete list of Kids Day events and contests.