“Top Chef” judge and food education advocate speaks to TCC students

March 3, 2017

Hugh Acheson talking to studentsTallahassee, Fla. (March 3, 2017) – Restaurateur and “Top Chef” judge Hugh Acheson visited Tallahassee Community College on Thursday to speak to students about cooking, his career and his nonprofit, Seeds Life Skills. The James Beard Award-winning chef is in town for TCC’s annual fundraising event, Cleaver and Cork.

Acheson began cooking at a young age and started working in restaurants at age 15. When he decided academics “weren’t his thing,” he dropped out of college to pursue a career in cooking. It paid off for the chef, who now owns several successful restaurants in Georgia. He spoke about the hard work and determination that was required to achieve his goals.

“I worked 100 hours a week and figured out how to do the best job I could,” said Acheson. “I just wanted to cook great food for people.”

The idea to start Seeds Life Skills began as a conversation he had with his daughter, who was in middle school at the time. After recounting a day in her family and consumer sciences class, which involved baking instant red velvet cupcakes from a box, he realized that there was something missing from the curriculum.

“I felt like there was a need to reconfigure what we were teaching and stating as ‘real life skills’ for people,” he said. “We teach people how to read, we teach basic math, we teach them basic science and civics. But what about skills to get through the day in life?”

With the input of school administrators, teachers, and university and industry professionals, Seeds Life Skills was launched in early 2015. The research-based, open-source curriculum covers topics in family and consumer sciences such as personal finance, nutritional health, and child development.

“We cover basic preserving, how to roast a chicken, how to poach an egg. How to make a 1:3 ratio vinaigrette. Then we go into how to read a lease. What is the reasoning for not signing up for a 24% APR credit card? What’s the pathway to quick bankruptcy for a young American these days?”

Acheson also acknowledged how the curriculum can complement what young students are currently learning in school and help them solve problems in the future.

“We’ve got math intertwined, and there are many engineering and science aspects to cooking that are intricate and very worthwhile to be taught that way,” he said. “They’re going to improve test scores later on because of the visibility those skills had in the curriculum.”

The curriculum is currently live in the sixth grade and already has excellent feedback and data to back up its success. They plan to go live in grades six, seven and eight in 2018 to reach even more children.

For Acheson, if it can help at least one person, it will all be worth it.

“You don’t have to wear a white coat to be a good chef,” he told the crowd of TCC students. “But a fried chicken box doesn’t have to be the first choice for dinner. We’re teaching technique-based things for better learning that will help them make proper life choices later on in life.”