By Sylvia Center Executive Director, Jennifer John

On Thursday, November 1st, The Sylvia Center Celebrated Both The Foundation And The Future Of The Organization With Their Art Of Cooking Benefit At Hudson Mercantile.

Over 270 guests enjoyed delicious food, great company, laughter, and were moved by stories from two recent graduates of the Teen Culinary Apprenticeship program. 

The night started off with cocktails and perfect bite size hors d’oeuvres inspired by our guest chef and student collaborations from all over the city. Patti Jackson (Delaware and Hudson), Sohui Kim (Insa and The Good Fork), and Antonio Mora (Quality Meats) shared their knowledge and skills with students during class in the previous weeks, and then prepared and served these appetizers together during the event. Guests were thrilled to talk with the students about what they have learned with The Sylvia Center. 

The night continued with a delicious dinner curated by Chef Anita Lo. Executive Director, Jennifer John, honored the seven founding board members for their vision and years of service to the young people of New York. Dr. Dodi Meyer accepted the honor on behalf of the group, which included Richard Aaron, Joel Cooperman, Rabbi Anne Ebersman, Trudy Elbaum Gottesman, Chaim Wachsberger, and Great Performance’s own, Dean Martinus. Dr. Meyer’s speech highlighted the deep need for programs that address food insecurity and diet-related diseases during the important early years of life.

Liz Neumark, Chair of the Board of Directors, presented The Sylvia Center Future Community Leader Award to Nerelly Jimenez and Rishon Philips. These Teen Chefs were recognized for their potential to serve their own community by sharing the principals of healthy eating with their peers, family, and neighbors. The program concluded with a lively auction conducted by Christie’s veteran, John Hays. The marquee item of the evening was a private dinner prepared by Chefs Anita Lo and Sohui Kim. 

The Sylvia Center raised over $570,000 through the generous donations of many amazing supporters and sponsors. The Sylvia Center thanks Great Performances for their outstanding service and support, and Hudson Mercantile and Bentley Meeker for the beautiful event space. Most of all, The Sylvia Center thanks our community chefs and students for being role models in their communities and continuing to inspire us and others to grow together.

Photo Credit: Amanda Gentile


By Jennifer John, Executive Director of The Sylvia Center


Young people, ages 7 to 16, spend all day outside in our learning garden and field house. Campers cook farm-fresh meals and snacks; weed, plant and harvest in the learning garden; collect eggs from our coop; and make garden-inspired arts and crafts. Most importantly, they work together to learn where fresh, nutritious food comes from, and how it is the foundation of lifelong healthy habits.

On the last day, our campers worked together in teams to produce the winning dish for the lunchtime Family Feast. Each team was given the same ingredients and 30 minutes to make their dish. Campers talked over their ideas, then chopped, sauteed and plated their improvised recipes. They had spent all week learning about garden-fresh produce and building their own cooking skills; and they were ready to show off.

It was a hard decision, but the judges chose the winning recipe — quinoa, feta, ground cherry with lots of turmeric and decorated with edible flowers. The team quickly got back to the prep area to produce the dish for lunch, while the other campers harvested vegetables and decorated the field house with all of their projects from the week. Family and friends were thrilled with the delicious meal, and shared how much their children had enjoyed their time with us on the farm.

When we asked our campers what activity they liked best from the week, it was hard to choose. The visit from Paul MacPhail of Bee Hollow Farm & Apiary was a favorite because they got to learn about bees while tasting varieties of honey. Making fresh fettuccine and pesto with basil from the garden was another favorite because they got to use the hand cranked pasta machine. Others said that making their own pizzas in the wood-fired outdoor oven was at the top. But everyone agreed that they loved making friends and spending all day doing hands-on activities with our staff.

The Young Chefs Farm Camp is a part of our fun, inclusive and interactive summertime learning programming in Columbia County and New York City. The Sylvia Center provides a number of scholarships so that our campers can have an experience that reflects the diversity of Columbia County. Your support of The Sylvia Center ensure we can bring nutrition education, youth development and summer fun to all of the communities we serve. Please share your support of healthy futures today.