Culinary educator takes a farm-to-kids approach

Team Lavender made roasted broccoli and pasta out of zucchini with the last chard of the season. Team Basil made a raw tomato sauce with basil and mint (the mint was an accident, but a tasty one nonetheless) and a peach and berry bread pudding. Team Parsley made a fruit salad and sautéed summer squash with onions and herbs. And Team Mint made an herbal tea with lemon balm and lemon verbena, kale chips and slaw consisting of cabbage, carrots, squash, radishes and onion “with a super awesome dressing,” according to 10-year-old Aidan Forte of Oakland.

This was the scene on a hot afternoon at Eatwell Farm in Dixon (just south of Davis) last month, as Bay Leaf Kitchen held an overnight for campers ages 9 to 12. They went foraging in the fields, then returned to an outdoor kitchen to cook up their bounty. No recipes were used.

While working in teams to decide what to make, the campers took a break when Anna Larsen of Siren SeaSA, a Bay Area–based business that sells fish and seafood on a model similar to community-supported agriculture, stopped by for a demo on how to break down several large halibut that would serve as the protein for that night’s dinner. The students were expecting salmon, but it was hard to come by that day, Larsen explained. If campers were disappointed by the last-minute substitution, they didn’t show it.

The kids also took time to visit the farm’s newborn chicks, which if approached slowly are more than willing to be held.

Bay Leaf Kitchen, which offers two one-week camp sessions in San Francisco that include the overnight to Dixon, was listed in Bon Appétit magazine’s top 10 culinary summer camps for kids. It’s the brainchild of Elianna Friedman, who at 30 is an established member of the Bay Area food scene.

Lily Holland cuts vegetables that campers (including Evelyn Rachel Kwong, in hat) have picked in the fields.  photo/alix wall

Friedman, grew up in a Los Angeles–area household where each year for Hanukkah her family made 500 — yes, you read that right — latkes.

“We’d have a pre-latke making day, where we’d freeze them,” she said. “When we were younger, we’d be assigned to wash or peel the potatoes,” she added, but as they got older and couldn’t be persuaded to do that much work, her mother decided peeling them was no longer necessary.

They kept a kosher household, rare for Reform Jews, she said, and it meant they hardly ever ate out. At one point, Friedman’s mother ran a kosher catering business. Because half of the extended family wasn’t Jewish —  her mother converted — theirs was always the house that took people in on the Jewish holidays.

That often meant seders for 30. Friedman loved hanging out in the kitchen, as it was “the communal place where I could get away from the giant energy of the party and hide out.”

Perhaps it’s no wonder, then, that she attended the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y.; she also got an MBA in nonprofit management. A Bay Area resident for the past six years, Friedman previously worked as a program manager at the San Francisco Food Bank, teaching people how to use the food they received.

In addition to founding Bay Leaf Kitchen, she is a culinary educator for CUESA (Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture), where she began Foodwise Kids, which brings public school kids to farms to see where their food comes from. She also enjoyed a stint as a culinary instructor at Berkeley’s Congregation Beth El, where she taught under the auspices of a Hazon family education program.

Her husband, Jesse, is a co-founder of Almanac Beer Co., a San Francisco–based brewing outfit that calls itself “farm to barrel.”

Elianna Friedman

Teaching kids comes naturally to Friedman, which is why she decided to run the camp this summer and why she used Indiegogo to raise more than $10,000 for scholarships so lower-income kids could also attend.

“A lot of people ask me, ‘How do you trick kids into eating fruits and vegetables when they don’t want to eat them?’ We’re trying to empower them to get them excited about better-quality food. They’re not going to love overcooked green beans. But if they’re coming from local sources, they taste so much better,” she said. “It’s not a trick; it’s showing them produce at face value, and they like it.”

While the farm visit was a large part of the weeklong session, guest chefs came to help teach on other days.

“Our overall mission is to teach kids how to cook and share good food in a joyful environment,” Friedman said. And if they start cooking at home, that’s an added bonus.

Aidan, the camper who was quick to share the recipe for his super-awesome dressing, said attending Bay Leaf Kitchen would definitely make him want to cook more at home.

Coming to camp was a decision he and his parents made together, but he offered, “I think even if your parents forced you to come, it’s still worth it.”

WAGING RAW: Raw chef Chaya Ryvka Diehl moved to Israel after teaching a raw desserts class that was covered in the second-ever Organic Epicure column two years ago ( She also was featured in a 1999 article about cooking raw foods for Rosh Hashanah (

She has left Israel and is back in the East Bay teaching classes. In the fall she plans to launch a raw food service; she is comfortable cooking according to kosher laws. To learn more about her classes and what she’s offering, visit her website at

Alix Wall
Alix Wall

Alix Wall is a contributing editor to J. She is also the founder of the Illuminoshi: The Not-So-Secret Society of Bay Area Jewish Food Professionals and is writer/producer of a documentary-in-progress called "The Lonely Child."