By Olivia Steele
Eric Ove, who “reads a cookbook like a mystery novel,” is Bright Futures for Youth’s (BFFY) first-ever full-time Kitchen and Nutrition Program Manager. Eric says his passion for the power of deliciously nutritious food was born when he fully understood how “the right blending of flavors, aromas, and textures can create a memorable and even healing experience.” With experience in some of Nevada County’s most beloved restaurants and time spent as a supervisor in a children’s educational and behavioral program, he was made for the job.
Marrying the value of fresh, whole foods with exploration of adventurous, multi-cultural flavors and the appeal of comfort foods, Eric encourages expansive imagination in meals. The youth get to experience the magic of adding cinnamon and cocoa powder to chili, or even deconstructing shepherd’s pie into a medley of lemon mint peas, garlic scallion mashed potatoes, and red-wine spiced beef and pork filling. Seeing the joy and inspiration that kids bring to the plate reminds Eric that he’s exactly where he’s supposed to be.
Eric’s dreams continue to fuel his work, he has goals to offer as many as four cooking classes per month inspired by student curiosity, homestead storage expertise, and skills that encourage food knowledge and independence for life. Each class offered is tailored to support confidence, skill, understanding, and enthusiasm – ranging from classes on balancing price and quality for ingredients to classes on “how to turn a pumpkin into a pie.”
In between cooking and serving 150 meals a week, Eric is making moves to develop a no-questions-asked food pantry where youth can grab shelf-stable, nutritious food any day they need. In 2021, through gleaning and local farm efforts, Sierra Harvest was able to send 28,343 pounds of produce to Interfaith Food Ministry. Eric decided to utilize the goods from IFM to implement a dehydration program, producing orange vanilla dehydrated apples, black pepper and thyme strawberries, and even a “warming winter strawberry granola with delightfully spicy strawberry chips.” We’re so thankful for community members like Eric who cultivate working relationships with local farms and organizations to provide not only nutritious, heart-healthy meals to youth – but to also demystify “acquired tastes” and encourage exploration into rich tastes and fearless flavors.