By Great Performances
On the evening of Monday, February 24th, ten high school and college students from The Bronx presented their innovative recommendations for enhancements of the Great Performances website and for a Bronx inspired catering menu to Great Performances Founder and Chair Liz Neumark and Culinary Director Rob Valencia at The Bronx Campus of the Metropolitan College of New York.
The presentation was the culmination of the students’ 22-week participation in the groundbreaking Thinkubator program powered by The Bronx Private Industry Council (The Bronx PIC). Imported From Germany’s DO School, and only realized by The Bronx PIC so far in the U.S., Thinkubator is a consultancy-style, work-based learning program wherein students are challenged by local employers to create solutions to real-world business problems.
During this time, and under the tutelage of teacher Rishauna Zumberg, the students were able to visit Great Performances’ offices and kitchen, where they met with various teams and learned how a business with the scope and reach of Great Performances is run.
They also had the opportunity to visit Katchkie Farm, Great Performances’ organic farm in Kinderhook, New York, where they met Farmer Jon and learned about the farm and where some of our food comes from.
Back in The Bronx, the challenge presented by Great Performances to the Thinkubator innovators was how can the company integrate Bronx culture to boost competitive edge. After the site-visits and discussions with Neumark, Valencia and other members of the Great Performances team, the students offered three options, out of which two would be fully developed for presentation: a short film about GP; a website renovation, and a GP operated restaurant in The Bronx. Neumark asked them to focus on the latter two.
The students were divided into two teams to tackle the assignments and spent over a month flushing out their initial suggestions into viable thoughtfully curated recommendations.
For the GP website, they concentrated on adding new energy and points of engagement with such mechanisms as: incorporating video into different sections; including a live feed of GP’s Instagram on the home page; integrating a playlist of the music the staff listens to in GP’s commissary kitchen; and creating a signature cursor in the guise of a broccoli crown as a nod to GP’s plant-forward food philosophy.
For the restaurant, the student innovators looked to the diversity of the borough’s population which was represented on their team, and devised a pan-Latin menu they dubbed “Bronx Eats” drawing primarily on the culinary traditions of the team members’ Dominican, Honduran, Mexican and Puerto Rican heritage. In fact, each student contributed a dish with which he or she have a personal relationship. Witness the horchata that Ryan Laing once used to bribe his brothers – who had been denied any due to misbehavior – into cleaning his room. However, their mother’s homemade rendition of the Honduran beverage favorite was so delicious, Laing drank it all himself, leaving nothing for his room cleaning siblings.
After the student presentations, Neumark and Valencia each provided feedback. They were both captivated by the students’ presentations and recommendations, and pledged right-then-and-there to adopt some of them, and they envisioned the Bronx Eats menu as a new food station choice for catering clients, as that would be the most effective way to showcase this cuisine. Indeed, Neumark declared for each station sold, a donation will be made to The Bronx PIC’S parent HERE to HERE, The Bronx based nonprofit that unites employers, educators and community-based organizations to connect young people with family sustaining careers and create a thriving inclusive economy.
Her announcement met with enthusiastic applause from an audience comprised of Here to Here stakeholders, Thinkubator director Dr. Edward Summers, Bronx community advocate and President of Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation (BOEDC) Marlene Cintron, and the principals of Dream Yard, which collaborates with HERE to HERE to build pathways to opportunity for Bronx youth, as well as the Thinkubator students’ parents and friends.
Great Performances is proud to have worked with these creative young men and women on their projects, and Liz was thrilled to provide inspiration to such a captive, young audience. It was a two-way street, as well; she was equally as inspired by the curiosity and enthusiasm shown by the students throughout all of this.
Liz cannot stress enough how important this overall experience was as part of her vision and commitment to nurturing these crucial community relationships in Great Performances’ new home borough of The Bronx. With her new neighbors and friends here, she is wholly committed to connecting, building, and prospering together.