Feeding families knowledge

Feeding families knowledge
WATCH AND LEARN: Chef Azmin Ghahreman, right, shows a class an example of a hand roll during the Sapphire at School program at Top of the World Elementary School last year. (FILE PHOTO, Coastline Pilot)

On June 4, Sapphire Laguna Chef Azmin Ghahreman is bringing food to families with his first Food Fare at St. Anne School in Laguna Niguel.

Growing up in France and Switzerland, the chef looks back at his trips to the farmer's market with nostalgia.


"I've always loved seeing the things grown from the earth," he said.

Not only did it cultivate a love of food, but it taught him about how cooking worked — from buying the ingredients and the herbs to putting it together in the kitchen, an experience he says many kids nowadays are lacking.


"I had this dream about two or three years ago to teach children how to enjoy food," Ghahreman said. "Some people ask, 'Where does honey come from?' It doesn't come from bears, it comes from bees. Our goal is to teach children more."

The Food Fare is more than just a market, he said. From recipe demonstrations to nutritionists and yoga instructors, the event takes a holistic approach to a healthy lifestyle.

"It's an opportunity to fully bridge the healthy food program with the kids at the school, giving parents and others in the community [a chance] to come on campus to see, sample and be able to purchase some of the food items that Sapphire puts out in our kitchen daily," said St. Anne Head of School Randy Adams.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, childhood obesity has more than tripled in the last 30 years. About 2 out of every 10 kids ages 6 to 11 are obese. About 18% of teens are obese.


"Some of the kids don't understand names of foods and vegetables," Ghahreman said.

This isn't the first time he has considered kids while in the kitchen. Shortly after he started the global cuisine restaurant in Laguna Beach in 2007, he started Sapphire at School, a program that makes healthy alternatives for five South County schools.

Sage Hill, St. Anne, Harbor Day, Capo Valley Christian and St. Margaret's get special meals created daily for their students, based on the Mediterranean Food Pyramid.

He's also offered cooking classes to get the whole family involved in the health of their children.

"They think dinner is going through a drive-thru," he said. "We're forgetting what food is. It's a proven fact when kids are eating more at home with family that their success rate is much higher."

The chef created a nutritional board to oversee the program, which is composed of local leading pediatric, medical, nutritional and dental experts, and professional chefs.

Adams said he's seen big changes in his students in the last four years. Parents boast that their children prefer to eat healthier, are getting more defined palettes and can even recognize seasonings.

As of right now, Ghahreman isn't sure where the Food Fare will take him but he hopes to expand it as far as he can.


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If You Go

What: Sapphire Food Fare

Where: St. Anne School, 32451 Bear Brand Road, Laguna Niguel

When: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. June 4