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‘Hell’s Kitchen’ chef visits Hempstead High

Chef Nilka Hendricks teaches Hempstead High School students

Chef Nilka Hendricks teaches Hempstead High School students how to cook a healthy meal. (Feb. 6, 2012) Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa

Hempstead’s Celita Sandoval, 15, spent her morning in class stirring chopped spinach and fresh garlic onto a heated skillet to make a whole wheat panini pizza.

Watching over her -- providing encouragement as opposed to Gordon Ramsay’s wrath -- was “Hell’s Kitchen” Season 7 contestant Nilka Hendricks.

The 31-year-old chef, who resides in West Hempstead, taught students at Hempstead High School hands-on healthy culinary skills. The visit was a part of the READ 180 program.

“I am excited to be here and inspire the youth,” she said. “A lot of kids consume too much sugar and fried foods and need to know that healthy food can be delicious. My family is Panamanian. I grew up on rice and beans. As I got older, I got wiser. Healthy cooking is simple, these kids can do these recipes at home -- one, two, three.”

READ 180 addresses various careers which identifies and evaluates different aspects of a job, including qualifications and salary. Reading and advising teacher Vanessa Senior was thrilled about Chef Hendrick’s visit to the school.

“It’s important for students to see and interpret what it takes to be successful in their chosen career,” she said.

A graduate of the Culinary Academy of Long Island in Syosset, Hendricks has cooked in restaurants such as Earth Tonez in Brooklyn, a vegan restaurant, and Empire Hotel Rooftop Bar and Lounge in Manhattan. She is owner of Chef’in It Up Catering with Chef Nilka, with her goal being to bring healthy food into people’s homes.

Tyesha Richardson, 15, of Hempstead who aspires to be a chef, jumped at the chance to help Hendricks prepare a fruit smoothie, something the teen admitted that she rarely makes. Motivated by the healthy way to prepare a smoothie filled with pears, honeydew, pineapple, low-fat yogurt and honey, Richardson plans to make them at home.

“This is nice to see that you can cook for your health,” said Sandoval. “I am happy to learn this when I am young because when you get older, you will pay for eating unhealthy.”

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