Chef David Thomas knows how to get children to eat their veggies. The Baltimore restaurateur, who, along with his business partner, Brandon Taylor, and his wife, Tonya Thomas, is not only committed to providing healthy eating options at Herb & Soul, their sustainable, farm-to-table, Southern fusion restaurant, he also participates in Days of Taste, a program that brings professional chefs into schools to help children discover where food comes from and how fresh food tastes.
Part of the American Institute of Wine and Food, Days of Taste brings chefs into classrooms in the third, fourth, and fifth grades. The program comprises a three-day visit: On the first day, the chef leads the youngsters in an exploration of taste; on the second, the whole class, including the chef, if possible (Thomas always goes), visits a working farm; and on day three, the children make their own salad and dressing, typically a vinaigrette.
“The last farm we went to had bees,” says Tonya, who works closely with her husband. “So it was great because the kids learned about honey. The whole program supports kids learning where their food comes from.” Of about 20 chefs in the local Days of Taste program, Thomas is the only African American.
“We’ve worked with kids who said they didn’t eat lettuce—but after they see where it comes from, after they make their own salad and learn how to whisk oil and vinegar together to keep it from separating—they love the salad,” Tonya says.
Thomas has done the program three times so far, always in Baltimore City Public Schools; he hopes to develop partnerships with area high schools. “It’s important to teach the next generation about agriculture and sustainability,” Tonya says, “and to support local farms.”