Katie Brown Joins Raintree School in West County as Head Chef Students Help Chef Katie Prepare Meals in St. Louis’ Only School-based “Green” Kitchen
Chef Katie Brown is cooking for a unique group of customers having joined Raintree School (Raintree) as head chef for the school’s students.
Raintree, located in Ballwin, Missouri, in the West County area of St. Louis, is a private kindergarten and preschool that offers part-time and full-time educational programs for two year olds, preschoolers and kindergarteners and is only one of a few Reggio Emilia-inspired schools in the St. Louis area. Currently building a new 6,800 square-foot, $2.3 million education facility in Town & Country, the new Raintree location is scheduled to open this winter. The new location will enable Raintree to become Missouri’s only Forest School, a type of outdoor education that introduces young minds to the outdoors to build independence and self-esteem.
Up-and-coming Chef Katie Brown comes to Raintree with nearly 10 years of food industry experience working at various St. Louis restaurants. Chef Katie holds a Bachelor of Science degree in nutrition and dietetics from Saint Louis University and an Associate in Applied Science degree in culinary arts from Forest Park Community College.
Raintree’s unique and cutting-edge school’s food culture was a natural fit for Chef Katie who has a passion for cooking, working with kids, gardening and sustainable food programs. As the only school-based green kitchen in the St. Louis area, Raintree and Chef Katie uphold principles that include buying produce from local growers; serving in-season fruits and vegetables; growing their own produce; choosing organically raised meat and produce whenever possible; and supporting sustainable agriculture that does not harm the environment.
“Having a green kitchen is in line with our school’s learning philosophy, which is based on a Reggio Emilia-inspired learning approach centering on the principles of respect, responsibility and community through exploration and discovery in a supportive and enriching environment,” noted Raintree Academic Dean and Co-Founder Brandi Cartwright. “There is a unique and invigorating food culture here that is much more than just cooking and eating. It is another educational opportunity, and our students are highly involved doing everything from planting and growing their own food to helping prepare their own snacks and meals.”
In preparation for the school’s move this winter, Raintree only planted herbs in their garden this year. At their new campus, the garden will be large and will be a place where students will learn to grow their own fruits and vegetables. Inside the school’s teaching kitchen, students will have the opportunity to cook what they grow.
When purchasing food, Raintree buys organic items from area stores and farms in Missouri and Illinois and they have begun getting tofu from MOFU Soy, a St. Louis-based tofu company, and bread from Breadsmith, a local bakery specializing in hand-crafted, artisan breads that are preservative and additive free. To teach their students about the importance of waste reduction and the use of biodegradable materials, the school leads by example by not using disposables. Raintree students dine on porcelain plates and use porcelain mugs and metal serving utensils, and they compost food waste and recycle everything else.
Chef Katie creates wholesome breakfasts and lunches with the goal of building an adventurous palet. Each day children are encouraged to try new things. Students have input in each week’s menu. For example, Thursday is make-your-own-bread-day, and students get to decide what extras, such as fruit and spices, go into the bread. Children also enjoy a daily opportunity to take over the planning and preparing of snack for the entire school with the help of their teachers. This is known as Snack Attack.
“Our students are always being introduced to new foods and learning how to make fun and nutritious recipes at home,” notes Chef Katie. “Getting preschoolers involved in the kitchen is a great way to encourage them to eat nutritious foods, and as a bonus, making food with a young child teaches them early math, vocabulary and reading skills.”
About Raintree School
Raintree School is a private kindergarten and preschool that offers part-time and full-time educational programs for two year olds, preschoolers and kindergarteners, as well as before- and after-school care and a summer camp for children up to age six. Raintree is only one of a few Reggio Emilia-inspired schools in the St. Louis area and when they move to their new, 11-acre wooded campus this winter in Town and Country, Raintree will become the only Forest School in Missouri. Raintree is also a co-founding institution behind the Gateway Children’s Nature Connection, a local coalition devoted to inspiring and educating children through nature. For more information about the school go to: www.undertheraintree.org or call (636) 386-0900.