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Linda Mah
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Chef Jet Tila Visits Linden Grove

Food Network Star Dishes on Good Eating

Whether he was talking about the logistics of making 440- foot sushi rolls or contemplating the value of boiling watermelon, chef and TV personality Jet Tila had the students at Linden Grove Middle School eating out of his hand as he encouraged them to be curious students of the world around them.

“Do you want to be a good cook, not even a good chef, but a good cook?” he said. “Then eat everything. You’re creating a data file in your mind.”

Tila made the visit to Linden Grove on Sept. 27 as part of a partnership with Chartwells K12 Dining Services, which handles food service for Kalamazoo Public Schools. He met with two classes in the morning and performed cooking demonstrations during the lunch period.

“Kids are really keen on cooking shows,” said Jenn Brower, the regional executive chef for Chartwells for the Kalamazoo area. “He really emphasizes fresh ingredients and how to put fresh food together. When kids see food made, it helps them understand how to make healthy choices.”

Tila pumped up his middle-school audience by relating cooking to math, science, and exploration.

Tila, who specializes in Thai and Chinese cooking, is a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu and the California Sushi Academy. He has appeared on numerous Food Network shows including “Cutthroat Kitchen,” “Guy’s Grocery Games,” “Iron Chef America,” “Chopped,” and “The Best Thing I Ever Ate.” He grew up in Los Angeles working in his family’s Bangkok Market and Royal Thai restaurant.

He’s set multiple world records for the world’s largest fresh fruit salad at more than 15,000 pounds, world’s largest stir fry (4,010 pounds), the largest seafood stew (6,500 pounds, and the longest California roll (440 feet).

Creating the giant sushi roll was all about logistics, calculating amounts of rice, and coordination, he said.

At one point, a student said he wanted to boil watermelon. Tila asked, “Why?” The boy said he was curious.

“I like that you’re curious. You should absolutely do it,” Tila said. “Check it out. Don’t stop him. The only way you’re going to know the effect on the watermelon is to do it.”

He then talked to the students about moist-heat cooking, like boiling and steaming, and dry heat cooking, such as sauteeing, baking and grilling.

“Do an experiment,” Tila said. “If you promise to boil the watermelon, then I’d like you to bake watermelon or grill it, then we can analyze what the effects of dry heat and moist heat have on watermelon.”

Kids shouted out some of their least favorite foods: Brussels sprouts, vegetables in general, and meat.

Tila let them in on a secret: “If you educate yourself on how to cook, then there’s a way to make everything delicious.”

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