Grooming the next Emeril: Pint-sized cooks make big strides in the kitchen
November 7, 2011
ESCHENBACH, Germany -- The after-school cooking class proceeded like normal. Pizza, made from scratch, was on the menu. Children kneaded dough, spread the sauce -- and then it happened.
"Who wants spinach on their pizza?" asked Kristyn Giles, cooking club instructor and third-grade teacher at Netzaberg Elementary School.
"Me, me me!" shouted the pint-sized chefs.
"Here is the zucchini," said Giles.
The "me, me me's" continued to echo throughout the vast room with each healthy ingredient.
"Try these peppers, they're sweet, not spicy or bitter," said Giles, offering a bite to each student.
"Mmm, these are good," said 10-year-old Aziza Bah. "I want those on my pizza."
"I want garlic," said fifth-grader Izaiah Brown. "Lots and lots of garlic."
It was a sea of vegetables and herbs and these elementary schoolers couldn't get enough.
I couldn't believe it. Was I really surrounded by health conscious tweens?
And as quickly as the surreal moment of healthy eating came, it disappeared with seven magic words.
"We should put cookies on our pizzas!" one student said.
Alexandra Alonso, 10, looked around and thought for a moment. With a serious look on her face she replied, "That's a great idea. I think cookies on a pizza would taste really good."
And we're back.
While the monthlong cooking class did ignite the sophisticated palates of these youngsters, the class was also aimed at teaching safety in the kitchen.
"We teach them how to properly hold a knife, slice vegetables and cook using the stove and other utensils," said Giles, adding that the topic of healthy foods is also a dominant theme.
"We let them know that fresh food with fresh ingredients can taste really good," she said.
The class meets twice a week and over the course of each class students prepared everything needed for a full-course meal.
From salads to sandwiches, tacos, soup and, of course, desserts, the bite-sized bakers learned the ins and outs of the kitchen, many for the first time.
"I didn't know anything before this class," said Alonso. "Now I can help my mom when she cooks. I know it all."
For some students, including 9-year-old Seanna McDonald, this class is just a refresher course.
"I've been cooking since I was six. I know my way around a kitchen," said McDonald, adding that her specialty is spaghetti. "I use a lot of butter and garlic."
While the students had various skill levels and ideas for participating, all agreed the best part of the class was tasting the fruits of their labor.
"The pizza's almost ready," said fourth-grader Jerome Hiler as the smell of melted cheese permeated the hallways of the school.
The 14 cooks sat down to dine and discussed their work.
"The pizza's good because we made it," said Bah.
"It tastes like hard work," said 9-year-old Eriq Gillespie.
Covered with pizza sauce, Hiler disagreed.
"It tastes good because it's pizza," he said. "Pizza is always good."