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Learning the farm-to-table lesson

February 3, 2011 |  6:06 am

Ray Garcia, the executive chef at the swanky restaurant Fig in the Fairmont Miramar Hotel, arrived each week at Olympic High to teach, but also to learn and to try to open the teenagers' eyes and palates. Together, they planted kale and eggplant, tomatoes and more in a narrow strip of land outside the school. What the students didn't eat went to Garcia's restaurant kitchen.

That made the work of growing food real.

But it didn't necessarily make the students so eager to eat it. "These kids feared food. Not only are they disconnected from it, they fear it," Garcia observed one Friday. "They have few reference points to describe their culinary experiences." But slowly, they came around. And one warm evening last week, Garcia gave seven of them their graduation present: a sophisticated, eye-opening taste of the meaning of farm to table. Mary MacVean has the rest of the story in today's L.A. Times.

Richard Urena, 19, left, Jenny Morrow, 18, and Krystal Kelley, 18, right, speak with chef Ray Garcia at his restaurant. (Francine Orr, Los Angeles Times / Jan. 26, 2011)