Culinary Challenge Leads to Learning New Languages

Apr 27, 2015

Learning a foreign language can be fun – especially when it involves stories, food and adventures.  That’s the word from students at St. Anne’s-Belfield School in Charlottesville.  They’ve created an app that proves the point.

French teacher Karine Boulle hoped to inspire students when she crafted this year’s biggest assignment. Her eighth graders were asked to write a story about food and the people who make it.

“What’s in a dish is not just food but it comes with a story, and it comes with passion.”

So student Liza Khutsishvili says they  wrote about Joe, a boy who discovers that his Great Aunt Josephine has died.

“He’s surprised, because he didn’t know that he had a great aunt, and then he finds out that he has a  inheritance, and in order to get the key to unlock the inheritance, he has to go and interview some chefs and get some recipes.”

Once written, they recorded the tale.

"Great Aunt Jo?  I thought I was named after my Great Uncle Joe.  Hah.  No.  You were named after your Great Aunt Josephine – a very generous person, as well as a successful French chef.  Merci.  Thank you, but I didn’t know her.  She must have known you, because she left you an inheritance.  Quoi?  This must be a mistake!  Oh no.  Ce n’est pas une erreur. Not a mistake at all.”

To craft a credible story, the students had to do research.  Phoebe Rossman says they met with chefs like Hassan Kaisoum at Aromas Café.

“He’s lived all around the world in France and Canada, the U.S. and Hawaii , and he told us about all the different restaurants he’d owned in the different parts of the world and the different experiences and kind of customers he’d had there, and we ended up getting a really delicious recipe for Morrocan meatballs.”

In addition to learning culinary techniques, Ashlyn Stolz says they gained computer skills sufficient to create an app.

“I learned a lot of coding, and we got hands-on experience.  We had to make the call, go and talk to them  for the first time, ask for the recipes and type up the interview.”

And to their surprise, some – like Tatum Jones -- got to practice their French with the chef at Bashir’s Taverna.

“We actually didn’t know that we were going to be interviewing in French, but then when we went there, he told us that he wanted to do it in French.  It was really hard!”

But really fun for the chefs.  Toan Nguyen, who does the cooking at Cville Coffee, says he was impressed with the kids and honored by their interest. 

“These two young women contacted me out of the blue, and they came totally prepared with a set of questions, and they were so poised and inquisitive about my past and my French connection.”

The app, called the Chef’s Treasure, is available for iPad at the App store at no charge.  Already, it’s had 60 downloads from 19 different countries.  Here's a link.

Karine Boulle