© Cody MacKay/The Guardian
Peter Crooks and students gather around his cellphone. After hearing the presentation about apple coffee, he pitched it to the Starbucks marketing team and was reading the positive response to the students.
Students in Queen Charlotte Intermediate School’s Grade 8 leadership class were tasked with the challenge of creating a new, innovative food product with one main ingredient: an apple
Think of it as the science fair of food.
Peter Crooks was describing a project to his stepson when he came up with the idea. It wasn’t until his stepson gave him some crucial feedback that it all made sense: preteens are very good at telling you what they will eat.
Crooks, who is the executive director of Canada’s Smartest Kitchen, recently judged a food competition at Queen Charlotte Intermediate School in Charlottetown, a competition aimed at getting students excited about food and about creating original, healthy recipes from scratch.
The Grade 8 leadership students at Queen Charlotte were tasked with creating an innovative food product with apples. To add a layer of difficulty, Crooks and Canada’s Smartest Kitchen expected students to assume an entrepreneurial perspective as well. Creating the product was foremost, but marketing and selling the product became an integral role to the competition.
“One of the sub-objectives of this program is to expose kids to the idea that you can have a really fun cool career in food,” Crooks says. “Science, culinary arts, business, marketing — they all come together under food product development.”
Students were split into groups and took to the kitchen to create many different products such as apple coffee, apple chips, apple buns, apple fries, apple jelly and many more.
Outside of the kitchen, students were expected to study their product and sell it. Some groups travelled to grocery stores in Charlottetown, brainstorming about where their product would be in the store, what container it would be packaged in and how the label would read.
One of the sub-objectives of this program is to expose kids to the idea that you can have a really fun cool career in food. Science, culinary arts, business, marketing — they all come together under food product development. Peter Crooks, executive director of Canada’s Smartest Kitchen
Some groups even took to social media to showcase their product on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Savitha Singarajan, 13, co-created apple chips and discovered the pressure of being behind something unique.
“We had to experiment quite a bit to get our final product and we only in the last five minutes made our product,” she said. “With teamwork, we accomplished a lot.”
Casey MacLennan, 13, helped create apple coffee.
“At the start I didn’t feel like I could truly make a big project that involved this many steps,” he said. “I went in with no confidence .... Now I feel I can take on the world.”
Crooks hopes Queen Charlotte continues to be a great testing ground for the Canada’s Smartest Kitchen project.
“We would love to see this idea roll out to other schools in the future, and hopefully go provincewide.”
The winner of the competition will have their product sold in the school cafeteria, adds Crooks, but groundbreaking ideas have potential to become something more.