rfh_cooking_club (2)Seniors Leela Srinivasan, Meredith Apicella and Jackie Bruckmann  from Rumson-Fair Haven High School at a meeting of the new cooking club make crepes in the St. George’s kitchen in Rumson. (Photo by Jim Willis. Click to enlarge)


The newest addition to Rumson-Fair Haven High School’s extracurricular club list might never have gotten off the ground were it not for a tray of burned pizza rolls.

“I was making pizza rolls,” senior Jackie Bruckmann tells PieHole. “I put them in the oven, and they burned so quickly I said to myself, ‘Oh my God. I’m going to college soon and I need to learn how to cook.’”

She reached out to two of her classmates, Leela Srinivasan and Meredith Apicella, and suggested starting a cooking club at the school.

“We decided we wanted to make the club a mix of culture, health and cooking instruction,” says Apicella.

Persevering through months of red tape, insurance and funding issues, the three students got the club off the ground and found a strong advocate in school librarian Linda Wien Murray, who is now the club advisor.

Murray helped orchestrate an agreement with St. George’s By the River Episcopal Church in Rumson to allow the club to use the church’s kitchen. “They were thrilled to have us,” says Murray. “They have a wonderful kitchen and it’s right across town the school.”

The club now has 40 paid members, 16 of whom attend almost every meeting. While there are a few guys in the club, it’s mostly girls who show up to cook.

“It’s not a résumé-padding club,” says Murray. “The girls just want to have fun cooking together.”

Bruckmann says she wasn’t alone in getting ready to go off to college with no real cooking knowledge.

“I think it has everything to do with where we’re from and the environment we’re in,” she says. “A lot of my friends go home and their mom cooks them whatever they want, or they have a nanny or a cook who will make something for them.”

Murray says households with two working parents also make it difficult for kids to pick up important, basic cooking skills.

“People are in two-career families, and don’t have a lot of time to cook,” says Murray. “If you’re not cooking together with your kids on the weekend, they aren’t going to learn how to cook.”

The students and Murray agree that the most important cooking skill to have when you’re on your own in college is knowing how to read and follow a recipe or instructions.

“The key thing is to read directions, and kids often don’t do that,” says Murray. She adds that kitchen safety and cutting technique are also basic skills she wants the club’s members to acquire.

So far, the results are promising. Srinivasan says she cooks with her family, and they’ve made a vegetarian curry recipe that came from the cooking club. Bruckmann, too, has moved  beyond burning pizza rolls and proudly told PieHole of the lemon chicken she made for her family a few weeks ago.