02/03/2011 12:17 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Chef Ray Garcia Of FIG Restaurant

Over months of Friday mornings, the teenagers dug holes for kale and eggplant. They staked and tied vines heavy with tomatoes and pulled out the plants when the season was done.

Working alongside them on a narrow strip of schoolyard outside Olympic High in Santa Monica was Ray Garcia, the executive chef at the swanky restaurant Fig in the Fairmont Miramar Hotel, who came each week to the school to teach and to learn and to try to open the teenagers' eyes and palates.

Quietly, he urged them along, talking about the plants and his work. Look at this, taste that. They harvested tiny heirloom tomatoes and fragile baby lettuces for a classroom salad. What the students didn't eat went to his restaurant kitchen.