The words wafted from the flat screen and stopped me mid stride deviating my lazy winter break meandering, to turn up the tube, and take note. Billionaire Warren Buffet, Life strategist Tony Robinson, San Antonio mayor Julian Castro, and Spanx founder Sara Blakely, seated at a table with Matt Lauer, on the Today Show, offering sage advice for the New Year. But it was Tony's quick nugget that made me take stock. He restated that proximity to greatness makes you better, and as a society we tend to group disenfranchised people together, and then wonder why they don't fair well. This is nothing new, a simple concept forged daily in the kitchen when honing a knife, "Steel sharpens steel," or to quote a biblical throwback..."Iron sharpens iron; so a man sharpens a friend's character," Proverbs 21:17. Running after excellence should be a lifelong goal, one that I have been pursuing relentlessly my whole life.
You see that's me, Kellie Karavias, the one with the toothy grin, pictured above with my heroine, Alice Waters. 13 years ago as a fledgling teacher, I had a dream of teaching kids how to grow and cook their food in public school. I had never heard of a public school doing anything remotely of what I had brewing in my head, but that doesn't mean it didn't exist somewhere. Having no idea where to begin, my mother presented me with a dogeared article in her O magazine on Ms. Waters and told me," this is where you start, by studying the best with like passions." I devoured the article and kept it in a journal of clippings on Alice Waters and her "delicious revolution," which included school lunch reform. I promised myself one day I would make a pilgrimage to Berkeley, CA, seek best practices at her Edible Schoolyard at Martin Luther King Middle school, dine on a perfectly dressed salad at Chez Panisse, stroll the Saturday Farmer's market and somehow Alice would find me. Instantaneously connecting as kindred spirits, over tea we would talk of small changes like gardens and culinary classes in every public school in America, and I would have arrived. What can I say? You gotta dream it to achieve it.
A decision had to be made early. If I wanted to grow a profession and make a significant difference, I must plant myself in the midst of the best. I had to learn, grow and sow. Fast forward to 2013 and 12 years of implementing school gardening and culinary programs in Houston public schools, my path is peppered with people whom I consider heroes, each of which has helped sharpen my skills and honed me as an individual. None have been as pivotal to me as Alice Waters, so I was asked to have my culinary kids cook for her when she was visiting Houston as a guest speaker for the Progressive Forum. I was thrilled beyond words; no, I was blessed. My kids made her a "Kickin' It Quiche" from our school garden, and as a result, I was invited to hang with my ultimate hero this past summer.
Below are snapshots from our cooking adventure for Ms. Waters, of my indescribable summer in Berkeley, California, where I could glean from the best at the Edible Schoolyard Academy and Alice Water's famed Chez Panisse, one of the top 50 best restaurants in the world! Learning never stops, and you should always position yourself in the midst of greatness.