Using their noodles: Professional chefs inspire kids to pursue culinary arts

Using their noodles: Professional chefs inspire kids to pursue culinary arts

Local middle school students sample authentic Japanese-style ramen

Floyd Dryden Middle School students had an extra tasty treat to end their week.

Chefs Matt Little Dog of the Varsity Grill in Anchorage and Naomi Everett, interim chair and associate professor of culinary arts and hospitality administration for University of Alaska Anchorage, prepared and served Japanese-style ramen to students during their lunch periods in the cafeteria.

“That was really good,” said James Winn, a sixth-grade student who was first in line to try a bowl of ramen.

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The Chefs’ Day demonstration was part of NANA Management Services K-12 food service program. NMS is partially owned by the NANA Development Corporation, which is a Regional Alaska Native Corporation. The precursor to NANA was the Northwest Alaska Native Association, but according to NANA’s website, it is not an acronym.

NMS contracts with Juneau-Douglas School District for food services.

Last week, the demonstration made its way to Sitka’s schools while Friday marked the first time it’s been done in Juneau. The school’s regular lunch options were also available.

“We’re very excited to see the chefs here visiting,” said Adrianne Schwartz, food service supervisor for the district.

The traditional style dish available to students included miso broth and allowed students to choose from ingredients that included candied pork belly, kimchi, shiitake mushrooms, hard boiled eggs, seaweed salad, shrimp and more.

“We really wanted to introduce them to something that’s different, but not too different,” Little Dog said.

Based on the excited chatter in the cafeteria, the varied tastes were a hit.

“I had two types of meat,” Winn said. “I don’t really know what kind. The mushrooms tasted different. They were kind of spicy in a good way.”

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The goal of bringing food and chefs to the students was to present some edible options that might be unfamiliar to the youths, and also to present the possibility of a career in the culinary arts.

“It is delicious, first and foremost,” said principal Jim Thompson while working his way through a sample bowl of ramen. “It’s also a nice way to show where food comes from and connect them to a trade.”

Life skills students in white chef coats helped the professionals dish out the noodles, protein, veggies and broth.

Little Dog, whose parents and grandparents were in the food business, said when he was about the age of the middle school students he started to get paid to work in the family business.

He said that early exposure to culinary arts played a role in determining his future.

“We want kids to see there’s other food out there, and we’re trying to spark an interest in them in the culinary arts,” Little Dog said.

Winn said while he enjoyed his food, he might not be heading to the kitchen.

“I like the eating,” he said. “I’m not really good with cooking.”


• Contact arts and culture reporter Ben Hohenstatt at (907)523-2243 or bhohenstatt@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter @BenHohenstatt.


Chef Matt Little Dog prepares a bowl of authentic Japanese ramen at Floyd Dryden Middle School as part of Chefs’ Day on Friday, Jan. 18, 2019. The Anchorage chefs visiting the Juneau and Sitka School Districts to introduced new and healthy foods via performance cooking demonstrations. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Chef Matt Little Dog prepares a bowl of authentic Japanese ramen at Floyd Dryden Middle School as part of Chefs’ Day on Friday, Jan. 18, 2019. The Anchorage chefs visiting the Juneau and Sitka School Districts to introduced new and healthy foods via performance cooking demonstrations. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Kari Sellars, marketing manager for NANA Management Services, helps sixth-graders Sage Schultz, right, Jaxon Reis in selecting toppings for their authentic Japanese ramen at Floyd Dryden Middle School as part of Chefs’ Day on Friday, Jan. 18, 2019. The Anchorage chefs visiting the Juneau and Sitka School Districts to introduced new and healthy foods via performance cooking demonstrations. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Kari Sellars, marketing manager for NANA Management Services, helps sixth-graders Sage Schultz, right, Jaxon Reis in selecting toppings for their authentic Japanese ramen at Floyd Dryden Middle School as part of Chefs’ Day on Friday, Jan. 18, 2019. The Anchorage chefs visiting the Juneau and Sitka School Districts to introduced new and healthy foods via performance cooking demonstrations. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Chefs Naomi Everett, left, and Matt Little Dog set up a food line featuring authentic Japanese ramen for students at Floyd Dryden Middle School as part of Chefs’ Day on Friday, Jan. 18, 2019. The Anchorage chefs visiting the Juneau and Sitka School Districts to introduced new and healthy foods via performance cooking demonstrations. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Chefs Naomi Everett, left, and Matt Little Dog set up a food line featuring authentic Japanese ramen for students at Floyd Dryden Middle School as part of Chefs’ Day on Friday, Jan. 18, 2019. The Anchorage chefs visiting the Juneau and Sitka School Districts to introduced new and healthy foods via performance cooking demonstrations. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

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