Students and their families enjoyed another night of Virtual Cooking with Chef Bruno Romanello last week. The popular interactive cooking event returned to Zoom screens throughout the valley on April 26.
Cooking with Bruno is presented by the McCarthy Family Child Development & Training Center to promote nutrition and healthy food choices. The center has been closed due to COVID-19 but has supported the students and children with various virtual programs and activities.
Participants enjoyed another nutritious and delicious meal guided by the McCarthy Center’s Chef, Bruno Romanello. Tuscan sheet pan chicken, green tomato citrus stack with beets and yogurt salad were on the menu, along with a surprise dessert.
A box containing all items needed for the evening’s dinner was delivered to the door of each participant, courtesy of the College and CV Harvest Box, an enterprise that supports local farmers and delivers fresh produce to residents throughout the valley.
The boxes include all the ingredients necessary to cook the evening’s meal for a family of six. Each box contains protein and various vegetables and includes spices and additional ingredients needed for flavoring your masterpiece.
Chef Bruno has been cooking as far back as he can remember. He cultivated his love for cooking as the son of Italian restaurant owners in San Diego. He attended La Quinta High School and was a part of the culinary program.
He later went to the Arizona Culinary Institute. He has extensive experience cooking in kitchens at resorts, country clubs and restaurants. He began working at the McCarthy Children’s Center in 2018, and since then, his biggest critics have all been under the age of five, but that doesn’t scare him. Chef Bruno says there’s only one downside to his job. “ “
Together with Diane Russom, College of the Desert Alumni and Director of the McCarthy Family Child Development and Training Center, Chef Bruno has brought fresh, organic whole foods back into institutional cooking. “Before closing for covid,” Russom said, “we were serving 350 meals a day. All organic and made from scratch right in our own kitchen.”
The center aims to encourage good nutrition and healthy eating choices through fun and educational activities. Nutritious food is a pillar of the children’s center. This virtual cooking class is a way for them to reach children and their families during the current lockdown.
The program has been expanded to include any College of the Desert Student. Amanda Phillips, Dean of Counseling Services, explains: “Throughout the pandemic, the College has been implementing a variety of programs and services to support our students and their continued success.
By partnering with the Child Development Center, we not only get to provide our students with a variety of locally sourced ingredients, but we also get to bring them together in a fun environment where they can interact with one another and learn about healthy eating.
To date, our student turnout has been great, and we have received a lot of positive feedback.”
Cooking with Bruno was inspired by the nutrition programs in place at the center before COVID-19 lockdowns. It started with a kitchen garden to supply their own organic vegetables. Including children in the planting, care and harvesting of the garden teaches them good nutrition and encourages them to try foods they otherwise may be reluctant to.
Before COVID-19, the center operated seven different classrooms for children ages 1 through 5 and Chef Bruno presented breakfast, snacks, and lunch every day. The kitchen garden concept has now grown into a community garden, in operation for over ten years. The community gardens grow herbs, fruit, and vegetables.
The center has also developed its Panda Pandemic program. Each child has been sent a home pack, including a cuddly stuffed panda pal. Staff at the center have made over 200 calls and are conducting teaching workshops to keeps the kids educated and occupied during the lockdown.
The McCarthy Family Child Development and Training Center opened in 1991 and operated as a child care hub for both students and the community and functions as a lab school.
Students from the Childhood Development Education department and other disciplines at College of the Desert are able to observe, implement projects and teach in connection with their College of the Desert courses. Nursing, teaching, physical education and nutrition students all benefit from the experience at the center.
No date has been sent for re-opening, but the center hopes for a soft opening this summer. For more information on the McCarthy Family, Child Development & Training Center, click here.