Diego Ruete

This description of Diego Ruete's work was prepared when Diego Ruete was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2016 .

Introduction

Diego promotes the connection between food, nutrition and play-based education through his organization Petit Gourmet. Diego enables children to be the protagonists of their learning process as well as the connection points between food, their family and their community. He created the term Educocina or “Fooducation” which encompasses the process, creativity, motivation and wellbeing of his approach.

Petit Gourmet is essentially a cooking school and program for young children that take place in both his space in Montevideo as well as in public and private schools throughout the country. Diego s approach creates a learning path from the garden, to cooking and group learning, all the way to consumption. During the process children reconnect with the natural source of food, and are taught life skills which result in creativity in cooking and learning approaches while developing family and community bonds through feeding.

Petit Gourmet’s approach is called Educocina which combines the values of cooking and education, using one another to fulfill the ultimate goal: educating through cooking and learning to be a more responsible food consumer through education. Therefore, Educocina seeks to educate children about food related issues, from the beginning of food on the ground to its preparation and ways of ingestion.

Focusing on children between the ages of 4-12 years of age, Diego is interested in raising children with healthy habits that result in them respecting the earth and eating healthy. Children learn how to contribute directly to a healthy diet and thus recognize that they can themselves produce their own food. Children who go through the Educocina experience are able to being impacting their family and from there, the rest of the community with a quality of life that encourages healthier habits.

Diego, through Petit Gourmet is systematically developing workshops with children in their own communities and educational institutions. Petit Gourmet also conducts workshops in health institutions, private companies and other areas where their services are requested. Diego also gives lectures and workshops to parents and civil servants, based on requests from particular educational or health institutions and private companies.

A key objective for Diego is to achieve public awareness on how everyday activities like cooking and feeding (to which society tends to devote less and less time to) can be teaching tools to strongly encourage a change in the quality of the development in the live of children and the whole family. Diego almost 20 years combined chef and preschool educator experience. Having worked with children for so many years in both school and after school activities has enabled Diego to perceive early on what at the time appeared as an emerging problem and today is widespread: the current gap between children and nature, which as a result affects the chances of a healthy diet and optimal stimulation of their development.

L'idée nouvelle

Diego promotes the connection between food, nutrition and play-based education through his organization Petit Gourmet. Diego enables children to be the protagonists of their learning process as well as the connection points between food, their family and their community. He created the term Educocina or “Fooducation” which encompasses the process, creativity, motivation and wellbeing of his approach.

Petit Gourmet is essentially a cooking school and program for young children that take place in both his space in Montevideo as well as in public and private schools throughout the country. Diego s approach creates a learning path from the garden, to cooking and group learning, all the way to consumption. During the process children reconnect with the natural source of food, and are taught life skills which result in creativity in cooking and learning approaches while developing family and community bonds through feeding.

Petit Gourmet’s approach is called Educocina which combines the values of cooking and education, using one another to fulfill the ultimate goal: educating through cooking and learning to be a more responsible food consumer through education. Therefore, Educocina seeks to educate children about food related issues, from the beginning of food on the ground to its preparation and ways of ingestion.

Focusing on children between the ages of 4-12 years of age, Diego is interested in raising children with healthy habits that result in them respecting the earth and eating healthy. Children learn how to contribute directly to a healthy diet and thus recognize that they can themselves produce their own food. Children who go through the Educocina experience are able to being impacting their family and from there, the rest of the community with a quality of life that encourages healthier habits.

Diego, through Petit Gourmet is systematically developing workshops with children in their own communities and educational institutions. Petit Gourmet also conducts workshops in health institutions, private companies and other areas where their services are requested. Diego also gives lectures and workshops to parents and civil servants, based on requests from particular educational or health institutions and private companies.

A key objective for Diego is to achieve public awareness on how everyday activities like cooking and feeding (to which society tends to devote less and less time to) can be teaching tools to strongly encourage a change in the quality of the development in the live of children and the whole family. Diego almost 20 years combined chef and preschool educator experience. Having worked with children for so many years in both school and after school activities has enabled Diego to perceive early on what at the time appeared as an emerging problem and today is widespread: the current gap between children and nature, which as a result affects the chances of a healthy diet and optimal stimulation of their development.

Le problème

Today, the lifestyle is such that there is more distance between people and healthy dietary habits. Families spend less time cooking meals at home and in most cases these meals aren’t even seen as a time for the family to be together. In schools and education institutions there’s a repetition of patterns where lunch is one more task to accomplish during the day, the approach to lunch is “the sooner the better”.

The disconnection between adults and children and healthy natural meals is a global problem. We can see this problem in high obesity rates in children that put Uruguay first place for obesity in Latin America Uruguay’s Development Ministry survey on prevalence of chronic malnutrition is between 4.5% to 5% in children, obesity markers show between 9% and 11% depending on the age.

The problem has many causes: social, cultural, educational and commercial factors are all relevant here. Changes in family routines and parental roles, the evolution of industrialized food production, the need to produce increasing amounts of food products for a growing world population, the presentation of food products through marketing specific "benefits" for the development of children, etc. are all factors that influence behavior change that has resulted in the current situation.

Children, and many adults do not know the origin of their own food, nor do they show the care and concern needed to maintain a healthy diet. The garden, especially in urban areas, is something that has been lost. Society has begun to look away from what is a basic principle: the nutrition education and health of all.

La stratégie

In Diego’s approach, children are the center. Motivation, curiosity and experimentation are the key elements of each cooking session. All sessions are driven by a recipe or various recipes. During the garden and cooking classes, children are motivated to research on their own. They then share knowledge and explore their discoveries with others. This activity puts skills like observation, listening and confidence into action. The main activities are held in schools, in Petit Gourmet organization, companies, public gardens developed by Diego s leadership.

Diego’s approach guides teachers to promote child centered activities and to allow for experimentation. All the activities are done around playing and experimenting. Traditional content is approached through cooking experience. Children create combinations of different smoothies which of different ingredients including mint, beets, strawberries etc. When the children are finished they review each other's recipes and learn about the chemical and physical properties of the reactions they just created. The kitchen is pure chemistry and the combination of ingredients is often taken as an experiment. The math is always present to measure and weigh ingredients, the fractions are used in most recipes and is also present comparing volumes, densities and areas. Children also learn Biology and experience planting seeds and reflecting on the grow cycle: harvest, collect the seed and plant it again is a natural act that we have ignored and should naturally be part of everything.

The Educocina is now developed in several schools with two-hour workshops where in addition to planting the seeds, children cook 2 recipes based on the assigned vegetables. Diego is in talks with the state agency that administers public education (ANEP), to make this program available in public schools throughout the country.
To further enhance the impact of his work, Diego believes it is necessary also work with adults in environments that promote healthy eating and assess the possibility of creating links from the kitchen and garden. Diego created the Community Gardens Montevideo group, consisting of self-managed groups that recover abandoned spaces of the city and install orchards that are managed and used by the residents themselves.

Diego is also an honorary member of Food Revolution, an organization led by the English chef Jamie Oliver and is one of their 14 brand ambassadors in the world. The Food Revolutions serves as a platform for Diego to develop his programs which enables him to spread his vision with massive reach in the media as well as attracting the interest of an increasingly wider audience. In both networks Diego has a great ability to summon volunteers who are supporting the development of activities in a growing number of schools in Montevideo and beyond.

Diego is constantly working with teachers to systematize the experience of Educocina and transform it into a training for teachers or others interested in combining food with education the way Petit Gourmet does in an effort to reach out to more schools in the area.

In recent months Diego developed some strategic partnerships with companies that will provide new access to other markets. Infantozzi, a local company specializing in home gardens has partnered with Petit Gourmet to reach new schools in 2016. Diego has also been working with Aguaclara, a local publisher on his plans to release his book “Today Cocinamos Nosotros” which is focused on the experiences of cooking with children from multiple social sectors.

Diego is currently finalizing an agreement with Buenavianda, a health food vendor. They plan to install a shop for Infantozzi and Petit Gourmet products.Diego’s work is spread through Uruguay with plans to scale in Argentina thanks to collaboration with Ashoka Fellow Angie Ferrazzini. Diego has also trained professionals in Chile, Paraguay, Peru and Brazil where he already built an informal network with organizations and school that are very interested in spreading his idea.

La personne

Diego’s mother is a teacher. From a young age he accompanied her to school and helped out with the class activities she held for her students. After high school he followed his interest and studied to be a preschool teacher which was a career that was not common for men, let alone young men to pursue. At the same time he decided to go to culinary school in a prestigious institute in Montevideo. Once he completed his schooling, he moved to Europe with his wife where they gained extensive experience working in kitchens around the world. While he was there, Chef Diego honed his craft and significantly grew in his career choice.

When he moved back to Montevideo, he resumed early childhood education and began working at St. Brendan's school. Diego moved to a house with a large garden. It was a beautiful green space that was not appreciated by teachers nor children. Diego set out to make a garden to create some value to this space. He used the harvest from this garden to cook with the children from the school he taught in. Some children were so interested in this that they has asked him to continue teaching them in his kitchen. This was the starting point for Petit Gourmet.

Over time they were adding more children and consolidating proposals for the Educocina methodology. Diego is a recognized public figure in Uruguay on the theme of healthy cooking and education through the kitchen. He participated in the WISE contest and won a mention where he was invited to the educational conference that the organization performs in Qatar. He is also regularly featured on television and radio interviews.