Barefoot in the Classroom

Denise Klein’s life skills students
Denise Klein’s life skills students at East Hampton High School, wearing aprons donated by Ina Garten, left to right, John Coughlin, LeMy Hoang, Denise Klein, Joseph Hodgens, Anthony Palacios, Chevanne Dwayne Allen, Juan Lazo, Jennifer Brito, and Debbie McIntyre.

    The Life Skills class at East Hampton High School meets in a large, bright classroom, complete with kitchen.
    It’s a good thing, too, since last week Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa, visited the class and helped them cook blueberry muffins, brownies, and more.
    “We had a beautiful time with her,” said Denise Klein, the Life Skills instructor.
    Life Skills teaches academic classes in the morning and switches in the afternoon to instruct its six students, all with special needs, on the skills needed to live independently.
    Along with “travel time,” which fosters an ability to go from point A to point B, and jobs three days a week “to help get them employed after high school,” Ms. Klein offers cooking classes, which include a trip to King Kullen on Wednesdays to buy ingredients.
    “Something happens when they’re cooking,” she said. “All their disabilities and afflictions disappear.”
    Most of the recipes over the past year have been from one of Ms. Garten’s books, and when Ms. Klein sent a picture of the class and wrote to the East Hampton resident, she got an unexpected reply.
    Ms. Garten invited the class into her home last spring. Then, upon meeting the students, she invited the class to appear on her show, “The Barefoot Contessa,” which airs on the Food Network.
    The episode was filmed last week and will air in the spring.
    “They transformed the classroom in 45 minutes to a studio,” Ms. Klein said. “Ina helped the kids, guided them. She was so warm and wonderful.”
    Each student was designated a different station. Anthony was in charge of dough, Chevanne handled the wet ingredients, LeMy worked the mixers, Joe sifted the flour, and Jenny folded in the blueberries.
    Juan handled the money at the bake sale, which raised $131, with items priced at a dollar apiece, money that will be used to fund a trip to New York City, or maybe even Six Flags Great Adventure.
    At the end of it all, Ms. Garten bestowed a custom-embroidered apron on each of the kids.    
    “It was a great experience,” Ms. Klein said. “And the kids loved it.”


How wonderful!!! Such a great inspiration to all.