The chef came into the kitchen with elderflowers and the kids were like, “What?!”
Yup, you can eat elderflowers. And oysters, and chicken liver mousse, and caramelized celeriac.
The kids in Mark Rivard’s classes are not only learning the ins and outs of chilled halibut and black currant wood parfait, but they’re getting a lesson in work ethic, entrepreneurship, and follow-through.
And they’re here at Heyday in Uptown, because they really, really want to be. Which is exactly the point of Rivard’s approach.
“I was a terrible student and I never went to college,” says the artist, educator, and sometimes bartender. He found school non-engaging and rote. But he eventually found his way through art, then skateboarding, and then a mashup of both (he runs another program where kids design art on skateboards). But he had yet to find a way to bring his third passion into the mix. Until now.
Three kids from the Fine Arts Interdisciplinary Resource School (FAIR) are now donning chef’s whites and cooking side-by-side with Jim Christiansen, one of Minneapolis’ top chefs, who owns and operates Heyday, lauded as one of the most innovative restaurants in town.
“Cooking is culture,” says Rivard. “And experiencing something that’s not Applebee’s or U.S. Food really brings the passion.”
When he gives talks at schools, passion is the only real thing on the agenda. “Do Rad Things” is his art education tagline.
“I first ask them to realize if [they’re] inspired about something. Then I ask what was inspiring about it. Then I ask, 'Did the inspiration become passion?'
“If so, that passion becomes a part of you. And passion is opportunity.”
Only three kids made the cut for this first-of-its-kind project, where the kids spend several weeks working on their own ideas for one course of a four-course tasting menu. They’ll cook and serve the meal to the paying public in an upcoming dinner. So far, Rivard says the results have been challenging, but “absolutely rocking.”
“The first day it was really intimidating. They were scared to death,” he says.
But Heyday is the perfect restaurant for the project in many ways. Christiansen is a soft-spoken, easygoing chef, and the open kitchen makes it the culinary stage.
Each student has invented a personalized course. They were encouraged to start with their fondest food memories. One came from camping, and the student is tinkering with a smoked salmon dish with edible flowers.
Another knew he wanted to make jerk duck, while yet another is working with macerated strawberries, strawberry Pop Rocks, yuzu custard, and matcha tea meringue (all dishes are subject to change for the actual dinner).
These are kids who tried their first oysters only a few weeks ago. Now they’re getting ready to suit up for full service at Heyday, and again on the night of their own dinner event.
The kids will be paid for their efforts when the dinner is complete on May 25 at 6 p.m.