Friday evening about 35 Pine Islanders gathered for dinner at St. John's Episcopal Church. The menu: salad, bread & butter, fettucini alfredo and for dessert profiteroles (cream puffs). All homemade (even the pasta) by the students of the P.I.T.S. Culinary class at the Beacon of H.O.P.E.
"This is the final class for the Pine Island Teens (P.I.T.S.) culinary camp. It is a six-week program where the kids come mostly two times a week. This is actually Nichole Pichon's idea. Nichole's background is as a high school drama teacher and she took on the task of dealing with a program that would really excite the kids. It was her idea to start a culinary class. We've had about 20 kids participate over the 8 week course with a core group of about eight kids. They learned everything from the basics of how do you boil water, to tonight's homemade pasta with a homemade fettucini Alfredo sauce," said Betsy Haesemeyer, director of Beacon of H.O.P.E.
"This church, St. John's, is really the reason we even have an education department at the Beacon of H.O.P.E. And of course finding a kitchen where the kids could actually apply what they've learned is great. They've learned about sauces, poultry, fish and so much more," Haesemeyer said. "The point of P.I.T.S. Is to give the kids a safe alternative and to realize there is a caring community out there. The program also offers them an opportunity to develop some healthy relationships and soft social skills."
The students and staff, plus Nichole and Paul Pichon, involved in the P.I.T.S. culinary camp which recently concluded at Beacon of H.O.P.E. on Pine?Island.
The driving force for the program is husband and wife team, Paul and Nichole Pichon.
"We cook everything from scratch," Mrs. Pichon said. "We're the kind of people, no preservatives, no corn syrup we cook like this just for our own benefit. So a lot of the course recipes were recipes we've used. I thought it would be pretty cool for the kid's to learn that pasta isn't just out of a box but that you can make pasta from scratch. And that it will not only be cheaper but cost less."
"There were 12 classes in all and one of the things I wanted the kids to learn was how to read a recipe and be able to make whatever the recipe was for. So I created a "mystery recipe" and I didn't tell them what it was going to be. They just had to follow the recipe step by step and it didn't have any indication of what it was. They had to read the recipe and make it step by step. It took them all the way until they were pressing out the dough to realize they were making a pizza. It was a lot of fun and the kid's had a great time doing this," she said.
"There were eight weeks of classes where the kids did quick breads, gravy and cookies from scratch. They also did a sort of competition of convenience vs. scratch. I bought boxed cookies and then they made homemade cookies. Afterwards they compared the results of the homemade against the store bought based on time, cost and of course taste. The homemade cookies won on both taste and cost," she said.
The program was so successful that after a two week break it will expand to two sessions. One made up of Junior High School students called Junior P.I.T.S. And one made up of Seniors called Senior P.I.T.S.
The Beacon of H.O.P.E., organized to respond to damage on Pine island after Hurricane Charlie in 2004, offers a myriad of programs to assist the community from Meals on Wheels to Elder Care to Medical Assistance.