About two dozen teenage chefs will mix, slice and dice Saturday as part of Suncoast High School Culinary Club’s “Make a Burger, Make a Friend” event at BurgerFi restaurant.
Club members will work with teenagers on the autism spectrum to create gourmet burgers at the event, which is designed to promote inclusion and acceptance of individuals who are different, said Jacquie Nicholson, field development director for Autism Speaks.
The nonprofit science and advocacy organization, which is collaborating with BurgerFi and the Suncoast Culinary Club to sponsor the event, works to pay for autism research and family services, increase awareness of autism spectrum disorders and advocates for the needs of people with autism and their families.
“Our hope is that the teens will gain a greater appreciation for others on the spectrum,” Nicholson said of the event, which is open to the public.
“Reaching out to them makes an enormous difference. It’s really important for teens, before they go into adulthood, to learn to embrace those that are different or have a disability. It also has them seeing what’s so unique and special about that disability.”
Saturday’s event, which runs from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at BurgerFi, 6 S. Ocean Blvd., includes burger-making as well as a discussion about autism, a brain disorder characterized by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors.
The Suncoast Culinary Club, founded last year by Suncoast High students Samantha and Lucy Krasker, works to promote tolerance and acceptance of those on the autism spectrum through a variety of initiatives.
In February the club held its first “Pizza for a Purpose” event, which drew about 15 teens on the autism spectrum to Vic & Angelo’s restaurant in Palm Beach Gardens for pizza-making and socializing.
Additional events will be planned for later in the school year, Lucy Krasker said.
“We want to break down social stigmas,” she said. “Many autistic teens are mainstreamed into the public education system. For some, part of autism is having difficulties with interacting with others and communicating and making friends. This event is to build friendships and bond over something that all teens love — burgers.”
For information, visit Suncoast Culinary Club on Facebook.