Celebrity chef Christine Cushing baking with Ria, a 20-year-old chef-in-training. Photo by Sheila Dabu Nonato

Cooking with Covenant House

  • December 13, 2011

TORONTO - Celebrity chef Christine Cushing joined youth at Toronto's Covenant House in baking Christmas cookies Dec. 13 to help inspire them achieve their goal of becoming a chef.

“As a chef, I'm so glad to have the chance to work with these youth to encourage them to follow their dreams and share their talents, especially during this season,” said Cushing, host of Fearless in the Kitchen on the Oprah Winfrey Network.

Covenant House, Canada's largest shelter for homeless youth, runs a “Cooking for Life” program. In nine weeks, youth graduate from the program where they are trained by a chef instructor from George Brown College.

Ria, a 20-year-old chef-in-training, told The Catholic Register that she enjoyed baking with Cushing at Covenant House's new culinary arts training kitchen.

“It means a lot. Even though she has a busy life, she has time to mingle with us,” she said.

Ria said it has encouraged her to pursue her goal of becoming a sous-chef.

For Covenant House, hosting the event is a way to bring “joy and warmth” to street youth during this time of year.

“Christmas is the hardest time of the year for young people who are without family but want the same joy and warmth we all hope for,” said Danielle Neilson, head of Covenant House's vocational services.

“We try to make Christmas as much like home as possible at Covenant House. Having traditions like fresh-baked cookies helps brighten our kids' Christmas.”

During the cooking lesson, Cushing and four students, including Ria, rolled out and sprinkled gingerbread and sugar cookies. Cushing said being with the young chefs reflects her philosophy on food and cooking: that it's not just about the meal but “making time to spend together.”

“It's about connecting,” she explained.

As for Cushing's family favourite cookies, she described stained glass cookies (cut-out sugar cookies with raspberry jam in the middle) and Greek shortbread cookies that Cushing made as a child with her mother during Christmas and Easter time.

Covenant House Christmas cookies are available at www.covenanthouse.ca/cookies

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