To kick off Black History Month, culinary students from East High School in Rochester prepared classic African-American dishes for more than 200 people. The students learned how the term "soul food" has come to mean much more than cooking.
"We make sure our little brothers and sisters know what they're doing because it's a part of us, it's our culture."
Black History Month is a time to celebrate the many contributions made by African-Americans, and perhaps the best way to discuss black history and tradition is over a plate of soul food.
For many families, soul food usually consists of dishes mastered by one's grandmother that younger generations try to duplicate.
"It's like down to earth food, it's comfort food for some people," said Alexis Gayle, Culinary Arts Program.
Students at East High School's culinary program put their own touch on the tradition.
"Every culture has their own soul food, food that makes them feel good; this is the food you come home from college for, that has emotion behind it," said Jeff Christiano, East High School chef.
"It hits the soul, when you eat it feels like your mom's cooking," said Gayle.
But now that eating healthy has become a priority for many people, including changes to more nutritious lunches in city schools, moderation has become a lesson in itself.
"We do talk about how would you make macaroni and cheese not with cream and butter but maybe chicken stock. One of the things we do with our chicken is we try it grilled. Once they realize how good it tastes and that it's not foreign, they fall in love with it."
To keep the tradition alive, the students handed out recipes, but they say this comfort food will be treated more as a delicacy.
"Have it less, it's okay to have fried chicken once or twice a month, not every day."