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Hungry middle schoolers gobble up new cooking club

Elyse+Vitale+is+getting+ready+to+take+her+cooking+club+to+New+York+City.+She+and+about+forty+students+will+tour+Eataly%2C+then+lunch+in+Manhattan.
Elyse Vitale is getting ready to take her cooking club to New York City. She and about forty students will tour Eataly, then lunch in Manhattan.

Elyse Vitale is getting ready to take her cooking club to New York City. She and about forty students will tour Eataly, then lunch in Manhattan.

Alex Belevan

Alex Belevan

Elyse Vitale is getting ready to take her cooking club to New York City. She and about forty students will tour Eataly, then lunch in Manhattan.

Alex Belevan and Emma Worthington

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Elyse Vitale is a middle school math and STEM teacher. She teaches a pre-algebra and regular 7th grade math class. Many students already know her because she formerly worked at Patrick M. Villano Elementary School as a 5th grade math teacher. Vitale and fellow teacher, Kristen Hastie, recently started a cooking club for middle school students. The group is headed to Eataly in New York City this week. Dozens of students signed up to participate in this club. Members cook twice during the school year.

Alex and Emma: How long have you had the cooking club?

Elyse Vitale: Actually, the cooking club was started last year by Ms. Hastie and Mrs. Rehak, but this year Ms. Hastie and I took it over. So, it’s just been actually the past two years that I know of.

Alex and Emma: Do you enjoy teaching it?

Elyse Vitale: Yeah, it’s a lot of fun. The first time around we kind of picked the recipes for the students, but now they are doing their own as you can see. They are doing their own recipes, so they’re really following the recipes and going for it, so it’s kind of fun.

Alex and Emma: So, we heard you were going on a field trip. Where are you going?

Elyse Vitale: Next week we are going to Eataly in the city, and what we’re going to do is the people who work there are going to give us a demonstration of how to make pasta, and then they’re going to give us a tour, and then we’re going to be able to kind of walk around and have some lunch, so it’ll be fun.

Alex and Emma: Do you have a favorite food to cook based off of a culture?

Elyse Vitale: I do. I love pasta with sauce because my grandmother used to make it all the time for me when I was little, but as I’ve gotten older I’ve kind of liked a lot of different types of Asian foods and different types of stir fries and things like that, but if I had to pick my favorite it would be Italian.

Alex and Emma: Where does the cooking club meet?

Elyse Vitale: The cooking club meets in Ms. Ramagli’s room. I think it’s 102.

Alex and Emma: How many students do you have in all?

Elyse Vitale: There are close to 50 students that we have cooking at different times. So at most, we’ll have probably 12 to 13 students per month cooking.

Alex and Emma: Is it hard to teach this many students?

Elyse Vitale: No, it’s not that hard actually because usually we make sure our expectations are known, and they follow our directions and the recipe directions, and it’s “knock on wood” pretty good so far.

Alex and Emma: What made you want to take over and teach the club?

Elyse Vitale: Actually, Ms. Hastie asked me if I wanted to do it, and at first I was a little nervous because it’s a little nerve racking helping other people cook and being in charge, but I think it’s really been great, and it’s nice to see how these recipes are easy to replicate at home, and I think that’s the most important thing for the 7th and 8th graders to see.

Alex and Emma: Why do you enjoy cooking?

Elyse Vitale: I definitely like to cook because I can kind of wing it and see what I like to do. Baking I can’t because it’s very precise, and I’m not good at it, but that’s what Ms. Hastie does, but cooking is so much fun because you get to try different things and experiment and see what happens.

Alex and Emma: Did you start to cook when you were younger, or is it a recent interest?

Elyse Vitale: I’m sure my family would tell you I wasn’t good at it when I was younger, but I definitely learned a lot from my grandmother who lived in Hoboken, and I used to go visit her all the time. She was the one who taught me how to make meatballs and  pasta, and I think that as I’ve gotten older I’ve been able to appreciate being able to know what to do more because I would be lost if I didn’t know how to cook some things.

Alex and Emma: Who or what influenced you to start to cook?

Elyse Vitale: My grandmother when I was young, but now I’ve learned so much from my mom since I was in high school probably because I’ve helped her so much with cooking sometimes baking, but I’ve got to tell you, I’ve learned a lot from her.

Alex and Emma: What’s your favorite thing to cook, and is it easy or hard to cook?

Elyse Vitale: My favorite thing to cook would probably be barbecue wings, either chicken or fish, and putting it into little foil wraps or packets. It’s hard in terms of controlling the heat sometimes because I sometimes start a fire on the grill, but overall it’s pretty easy because you throw it on the grill, and then you’re done.

Alex and Emma: Do you like to be challenged while cooking, or do you like to cook easier things?

Elyse Vitale: I like easier things because whenever I try to do something complicated, it doesn’t work.

Alex and Emma: Do you tend to teach them the same things that you love to cook?

Elyse Vitale: Yes, the first time around definitely. The second time around, they picked their own recipes, but we had them find their own recipes, and we kind of approved them to make sure they were easy enough to do within the two hour period that we have, but then also that they can try them at home too, so they can take the recipes home and try them.

Alex and Emma: Describe why you think the field trip will we be a good experience.

Elyse Vitale– I think it will be good because it will be nice for us to hear from a professional about making pasta, and also to see the different culture because here they’re making tacos, they’re baking, and they’re making pasta and sauce actually. So, we’re looking at different types of foods, and I feel like going there we’re going to get a first hand experience about the culture of that type of food, so I think that will be very foreign.

Alex and Emma: For the last question, does learning how to cook help with responsibility or any other trait?

Elyse Vitale: Yes. I was just telling the group before to watch the timers, to make sure if you know to stove is on, you’ve got to make sure you’re careful around it. If you have the oven on, you have to make sure you turn it off after, even washing your hands before you get started, so we’re teaching them all those little things that will end up making them more responsible, definitely, in the kitchen, and hopefully outside of the kitchen too.

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Hungry middle schoolers gobble up new cooking club