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Grow, eat, learn 

A local chef is leaving to teach families about food

click to enlarge BON VOYAGE, BON APPETIT :  Debbie Duggan is planning plenty of year-end classes for Central Coast Culinary and Catering before she leaves town to be executive director at the Buena Vista Elementary School Edible Garden and Cooking Classroom. - PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
  • BON VOYAGE, BON APPETIT : Debbie Duggan is planning plenty of year-end classes for Central Coast Culinary and Catering before she leaves town to be executive director at the Buena Vista Elementary School Edible Garden and Cooking Classroom.
Debbie Duggan loves to teach the art of cooking. For 12 years, she’s been sharing her knowledge as executive chef at Central Coast Culinary and Catering. Recently, she got an opportunity to teach youth in Bakersfield about proper food preparation. Although she leaves the Central Coast with a heavy heart, she sees the move as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

“Let’s imagine if you would like to learn guitar, and Paul McCartney decided he wanted you to tour with him and teach you how to play. Would you do it?” Duggan said. “Hell yes, you would! This new job is on that same kind of level. It’s something you simply don’t pass up.”

Duggan is becoming the executive director of Buena Vista Elementary School Edible Garden and Cooking Classroom in Bakersfield. The opportunity was introduced by Barbara Grimm, a longtime friend of 30 years. Grimm is the CEO of the Grimm Family Foundation, which originates from Grimmway Farms in Bakersfield. The foundation is building and supporting a cooking school classroom along with an enormous organic garden across the street from the school.

When Grimm asked Duggan if she happened to know anyone who would want the position, Duggan offered Grimm her services.

“I’ve taught cooking and etiquette classes to children for many years now. To be able to build a program that can help children and their families understand how important it is to make healthier decisions with the food they eat, we can help them to make healthier decisions in all aspects of their lives.” Duggan said.

According to Duggan, the students will have responsibilities such as preparing soil, sorting seedlings, planting, composting, tending to the chicken coop, and harvesting the produce. When the produce is ripe, the kids will be instructed in the kitchens, learning about nutrition, history of food, social etiquette, and how to correctly prepare food.

Teaching children how to grow and cook their own meals has been popularized in urban areas with programs such as the Chez Panisse Foundation’s Edible Garden and The Edible Schoolyard.

Executive Chef Alice Waters of Berkeley started the Chez Panisse Foundation to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Chez Panisse Restaurant. With the support of The Edible Schoolyard, Waters was able to build at Berkeley’s Martin Luther King, Jr., Middle School: a one-acre garden, an adjacent kitchen-classroom, and an “eco-gastronomic” curriculum.

Grimm and Duggan, inspired by Waters’ success, see their project as a moral obligation to help others who are less fortunate. They’d like to see schools follow in their footsteps to help struggling families throughout the nation.

“This was a natural decision for me,” Duggan said. “It’s the next step in my life. I will always have a following of friends and family who I love and support here on the Central Coast. I’ve been incredibly fortunate and thankful for all the positive reactions from people who support my decision. I hope to make a difference, utilizing what I’ve learned here and how I can bring my skills to this project.”

Central Coast Culinary and Catering was going to close its doors on Dec. 31; Duggan, however, might choose to sub-lease or offer the job to a different instructor. The future is currently uncertain, but Duggan has plenty of classes planned for the remainder of the year and will continue to devote all of her energy into making them as creative and practical as the last.

For more information about Debbie Duggan’s culinary classes, visit

Fast facts

The Homeless Animal Rescue Team (HART) is hosting its Meow Mixer 3 at the Cambria Nursery, 2801 Eton Road, on Oct. 9. There will be a wine tasting and food fundraiser featuring wines from Harmony Cellars, appetizers from local food establishments, and raffle prizes donated by local merchants. Proceeds go to supporting the care of cats needing good homes, spay/neuter, and community education. Tickets will be sold at the door for $15. For more information, call Mimi Kimball at 995-5025. …

Sycamore Mineral Springs Resort, in Avila Beach, will be offering a new program of ongoing holistic health and wellness for the Central Coast. Healing Hearts and Inspiring Souls is hosting a holistic body-mind-spirit wellness workshop Nov. 5 to 7; Feb. 16 to 18, 2011; and May 6 to 8, 2011. Contact Dianne for more information at

Intern James Woodward can be reached via Executive Editor Ryan Miller at

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