Franklin Twp police serve NJ kids ‘Cooking with Cops’ – Advice Eating

FRANKLIN TOWNSHIP — The Franklin Township Police Department in Somerset County just completed its “Cooking with Cops” spring culinary session for youth and is preparing for another multi-week course in June.

According to Detective Altwain Burwell, the program was developed two years ago when the new Police Department Director, Quovella Maeweather, envisioned much more community police activity.

Franklin PD Detective Altwain Burwell and students in the spring “Cooking with Cops” (Photo: Altwain Burwell)

Franklin PD Detective Altwain Burwell and students in the spring “Cooking with Cops” (Photo: Altwain Burwell)

When the department took over a new building on Hamilton Street, they wanted to use all parts of the building, including the kitchen. Knowing that Burwell had culinary skills, Maewather put him in charge of the community-based children’s cooking program. Together they built the seven-week program aimed at bringing youth and police officers together in the kitchen, creating recipes and learning about teamwork.

The first grade had two children, then four, then eight. In addition to a fall and spring course, there are two summer programs, Burwell said. The class is open to all Franklin Township youth, primarily high school students, at no cost. About five Cooking with Cops programs have been conducted to date.

Franklin PD Detective Altwain Burwell and students in the spring “Cooking with Cops” (Photo: Altwain Burwell)

Franklin PD Detective Altwain Burwell and students in the spring “Cooking with Cops” (Photo: Altwain Burwell)

Burwell, who has been with the department since 2005, said students learn about knife safety and general food and kitchen safety in the first week. You’ll watch knife-handling videos and learn about the dangers of the oven, kitchen fires, and burn treatment.

The second week is all about preparing salads, from Caesar to pasta and everything in between, he added.

After the second week, Burwell said he could gauge how good the kids were with knives. Then they cook and make everything from candied yams, macaroni and cheese, steak, hamburgers, hot dogs, fries and more. He said he tries to mix up the menu for each class.

Franklin PD Detective Altwain Burwell and students in the spring “Cooking with Cops” (Photo: Altwain Burwell)

Franklin PD Detective Altwain Burwell and students in the spring “Cooking with Cops” (Photo: Altwain Burwell)

The seventh week is the final week. Burwell said Donald “Junior” Erickson, executive chef and general manager of the Stage House Tavern in Somerset, came forward and asked how the restaurant could be included.

“So for the final week we bring all the skills that the kids learned in weeks one through six to the Stage House and have them apply those skills in different workspaces in a fully functional kitchen where they work and look after people and customers.” said Burwell.

Franklin PD Detective Altwain Burwell and Donald “Junior” Erickson, owner, Stage House Tavern (Photo: Altwain Burwell)

Franklin PD Detective Altwain Burwell and Donald “Junior” Erickson, owner, Stage House Tavern (Photo: Altwain Burwell)

For about 90 minutes, the children go to different stations. Some can cut vegetables, others can make salads, some can take food orders, and still others can handle the grill.

The children then prepare their own appetizers for their families for the graduation and awards ceremonies.

Right now the program is just Burwell and about eight kids. Burwell said he would like to add a few more police officers and children to the program.

Franklin Township students participate in Franklin PD’s spring “Cooking with Cops” program (Photo: Altwain Burwell)

Franklin Township students participate in Franklin PD’s spring “Cooking with Cops” program (Photo: Altwain Burwell)

Burwell said at the start of each program he noticed that many of the children would set their guard and weren’t really sure how to act in the presence of a police officer.

“Once we break that ice, some of you who are considering a career in the police force can talk to me about it. We talk about a number of different things, whether it’s something that’s going on in society that they don’t understand and can only see it from a vision. I can probably tell you another vision,” Burwell said.

Franklin Township students participate in Franklin PD’s spring “Cooking with Cops” program (Photo: Altwain Burwell)

Franklin Township students participate in Franklin PD’s spring “Cooking with Cops” program (Photo: Altwain Burwell)

The idea is to bring community and police together in a fun way to build relationships, he added.

By building these relationships, Burwell said, the kids then feel comfortable calling him, whether to ask questions, turn the breeze or get advice. “I’m always there for the kids, always ready to answer questions,” Burwell said.

The next “Cooking with Cops” in Franklin Township will not take place until the end of June. The application is not yet available, but you can check the department’s website for updates.

Burwell said he gets a lot of applicants and wishes he could take every child. Therefore, the department offers several courses in the fall, in the spring and two in the summer.

Franklin Township Police Department Detective Altwain Burwell and his Spring Cooking with Cops class (Photo: Altwain Burwell)

Franklin Township Police Department Detective Altwain Burwell and his Spring Cooking with Cops class (Photo: Altwain Burwell)

While Stage House Tavern is the only restaurant affected, Burwell said he would love to see other restaurants participate in the program as well.

“We would like to see the program grow. It’s quite an expensive program. The students pay nothing. We cover the entire cost through donations from supermarkets, restaurants or individuals who wish to send donations,” Burwell said.

Franklin Township student preparing salads during the Police Department’s Spring Cooking with Cops program (Photo: Altwain Burwell)

Franklin Township student preparing salads during the Police Department’s Spring Cooking with Cops program (Photo: Altwain Burwell)

In addition to “Cooking with Cops”, the department has implemented many other community-based programs, including:

  • Franklin CAN – Cops and Autism Community Networking
  • Franklin FIT – CrossFit for middle and high school students
  • Tradesman Program – Familiarization with tools and tradesman skills for middle and high school students
  • Basketball – skills and exercises for children from 10 years
  • Citizen’s Academy – 11 week program for adults to learn more about the work of police officers
  • Cadet Academy – Year-round school program for 14-20 year olds who want to learn to be a police officer
  • Youth Police Academy – 1.5 week summer program that emulates the Police Academy for grades 8-12.
  • Biking with Cops – Police officers lead high school students and older on rides around the city in the late spring, summer, and early fall months
  • RAD – Self-defense course for women aged 16 and over
  • Operation Blauer Engel – locker system for seniors/disabled people to enable access in an emergency

Jen Ursillo is a reporter and anchor for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach her at jennifer.ursillo@townsquaremedia.com

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