The People: Fernando Ocampo

Chef helps kids eat better by making food fun.

By Doug McPherson

Publish Date: September 4, 2013

Ocampo
Fernando Ocampo is a chef consultant with LiveWell Colorado, a
nonprofit that promotes healthy eating and living.
Photo: Barry Gutierrez

Even at the tender age of 5, Fernando Ocampo (B.A. hospitality management ’12) was tapping his creativity so he could take part in his favorite hobby: cooking.

The little fella had to figure a way to reach the stovetop. So he’d pull up a small stool, step up and stretch his arm just high enough to get a spoon into a steamy pot — his grandma watching with love and a warm smile.

“Yeah, that’s one of my fondest memories of cooking, for sure,” Ocampo says. “I’d spend a lot of time with grandma in the kitchen. I have to give her credit because she’s the one who showed me that cooking wasn't hard but something really fun.”

That fun was reinforced at school, too. Ocampo recalls a few cooking classes in his kindergarten.

“We had a garden we took care of, and when some vegetables were ready to pick, we’d take them to the kitchen and cook with them,” he says.

That turned out to be good training. Today part of Ocampo’s job is to convince youngsters to eat more fruits and vegetables as a chef consultant with LiveWell Colorado, a nonprofit that promotes healthy eating and living.

Ocampo admits it can be a challenge because many of the kids are used to eating processed junk food. “One thing I do is try to make eating healthy food fun for the kids. So if a school is serving cherry tomatoes, I tell the students the cherry tomatoes have tomato explosions and that when they chew them, they explode in their mouths.”

He emphasizes color to get kids to eat broccoli.

“I teach the cafeteria staff how to steam broccoli, which makes it really bright green. It’s beautiful and it tastes delicious without any salt or cheese,” he says. “I tell students I made it extra green just for them. They appreciate it and they’re more willing to eat it that way.”

Fernando Ocampo shares his marinara sauce recipe. Read more.