Brooklyn kids learn dining and etiquette skills

Great minds: Chef Patrick Simpson, left, and Amarimba Charles together organized a dining and etiquette class for culinary students from MS 51 in Manhattan on May 11.
Photo by Caroline Ourso

They’re learning adult skills.

Over a dozen Brooklyn middle school kids got to learn some valuable table manners and a cooking lesson at an etiquette dining Class in Chelsea on May 11. The students from MS 61 in Crown Heights, ventured to Manhattan for a day of learning the how-to’s, the do’s and don’ts of cooking, and proper mannerisms to display at a dinner table, and they were consumed with the class, said the event’s co-organizer.

“They had wonderful time and a lot of them were already interested in coming back again,” said Amarimba Charles. “They were totally engrossed in everything, and everyone got the opportunity to cook and learn something new.”

The youngsters mostly cooked pasta dishes, and they had a bevy of ingredients to choose from such as shrimp and chicken, and different sauces and vegetables, according to Charles. And they also competed in cooking demonstrations to see how quickly they could prepare a meal in under four minutes.

Charles and Jamaican-American chef Patrick Wenford Simpson both organized the event, after she approached him about combining her etiquette class with his culinary background.

She says giving the kids an opportunity to learn some behavioral customs aside from what they can learn at home, while picking up new cooking skills, is essential to preparing them for the world and how they interact and received by people.

“I often hear when people hear the word etiquette, they associate it being bougie or stuck up — but that’s not what etiquette is,” said Charles. “It’s basically home training and being able to socialize outside of the home, holding doors for people, and giving up a seat on the bus, and even as adults etiquette is something that you’ll continually learn.”

Charles said her mission behind her etiquette empowering classes were to reintroduce new habits to prepare young adults entering the professional world. And an important aspect of that is through experience.

“One of the reasons dining etiquette class is important is because nowadays we have a lot of meetings over meals and even sometimes the interview process for middle school or high school is done over a meal,” she said. “It’s important to set your best foot forward, whether you’re sitting behind the desk or at a lunch, and I think it’s always great to have that holistic part of it, not just focusing on the tie or dress suit — but how you present your whole self.”

Reach reporter Alexandra Simon at (718) 260–8310 or e-mail her at asimo[email protected] Follow her on Twitter @AS1mon.

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