A few years ago, chef Bill Telepan heard about kids “coming into school with a big bottle of orange soda or a big bag of chips” for breakfast.
“A lot of them were obese or would be out of breath after climbing the stairs,” said Telepan, 47, in an interview at his Upper West Side restaurant.
Soon after that he began working with Wellness in the Schools, a New York nonprofit that helps children in public schools lead healthier lives by teaching them to cook and choose more-nutritious food.
Since 2008, he has served as the program’s executive chef, developing monthly menus and teaching cafeteria workers how to make more-healthful meals.
Tomorrow night, Telepan also will help the organization raise money by cooking small plates at its annual benefit, along with Barbuto’s Jonathan Waxman, Tertulia’s Seamus Mullen, Alexandra Guarnaschelli of Butter and the Food Network’s “Iron Chef: America,” and Blue Hill’s Dan Barber.
Wellness in the Schools programs are in 47 New York schools and include Cook for Kids, on preparing healthy meals, and Coach for Kids, in which fitness experts help children get daily exercise.
“There’s no more home-economics classes in school. They’re cutting down on gym time,” said Telepan, who trained with Daniel Boulud at New York’s Le Cirque. “School is a place where you educate kids. Why not teach kids well about the thing that they do three times a day?”
Since opening Telepan in 2005, the chef has donated his food and time to other nonprofits such as City Harvest and Share Our Strength, a Washington-based organization that seeks to end childhood hunger.
“If we are what we eat, we’re fast, cheap and easy,” Telepan said about the U.S. diet. “We have to get away from that and cook more. We have to give these kids better food at an early age. And we have to start educating them about what to eat.”
(The Wellness in the Schools Annual Benefit is tonight, 6:30 to 10 at 360 Tribeca Rooftop, 10 Desbrosses St. in Manhattan. Tickets are $225 online or $300 at the door. Information: http://www.wellnessintheschools.org)
Muse highlights include Rich Jaroslovsky on books, James S. Russell on architecture, Jeremy Gerard on theater.